Watch CBSN Live

Country Fast Facts: Western Sahara

Western Sahara

moveClock(); //function call


Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony.

Morocco virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement (and government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR) dispute control of the territory. Since a United Nations-sponsored cease-fire agreement in 1991, most of the territory has been controlled by Morocco, with the remainder under the control of Polisario/SADR.

Internationally, the major powers such as the United States have taken a generally ambiguous and neutral position on each side's claims, and have pressed both parties to agree on a peaceful resolution. Both Morocco and Polisario have sought to boost their claims by accumulating formal recognition, from largely minor states.

Polisario has won formal recognition for SADR from roughly 45 states, and was extended membership in the African Union, while Morocco has won formal recognition for its position from 25 states, as well as the membership of the Arab League. In both instances, recognitions have over the past two decades been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends.

Source: CIA World Fact Book