Amid a dispute over a visit to the North African nation by the head of the Polisario Front that is seeking independence of the Western Sahara, Tunisia summoned its ambassador from Morocco on Saturday.
The move comes a day following Morocco recalling its envoy from Tunisia in protest of a meeting between President Kais Saied and Brahim Ghali, which took place ahead of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) summit, due to commence on Saturday.
Ghali’s invitation has been termed by Morocco as “a serious and unprecedented act that deeply offends the feelings of the Moroccan people and its forces.” In response to the Tunisian move, Rabat said it will not attend the two-day summit.
The Tunisian Foreign Ministry said it was “surprised” by the Moroccan reaction, in response to the Moroccan statement.
The ministry said in a statement that “Tunisia has maintained its neutrality on the Western Sahara issue…This stance remains unchanged until the parties reach a peaceful solution acceptable to all.”
Tunisia “is keen on maintaining the cordial, brotherly and distinguished relations with the Moroccan people,” the ministry said.
According to UN estimates, Western Sahara is an area along Africa’s Atlantic coast that has a population of about 600,000 residents.
While proposing a self-rule system under Moroccan sovereignty, Rabat insists on its right to the Western Sahara region.
Meanwhile, in a proposal backed by Algeria, the pro-independence Polisario Front, for its part, demands that a popular referendum be held in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate.