“Italian Foreign Policy and the Western Sahara: Balancing Relations with Morocco and Algeria”, Pietro Malesani (IAI, Italy) 

The unresolved conflict over the Western Sahara remains an important issue for geopolitical balances in the Mediterranean, including Italian foreign policy and Rome’s relations with Morocco and Algeria. Generally described as a “frozen” or low-intensity conflict, the Western Saharan dispute involves a number of disparate actors. The Polisario Front – a movement fighting for the independence of Western Sahara – and Morocco, which since 1975 has occupied Western Sahara, are the key protagonists, but a relevant role is also played by Algeria, the key regional backer of the Polisario, as well as Mauritania, the United States, the European Union and Israel. In 2021, a formal ceasefire was broken by the Polisario Front, which explained its decision as a response to Moroccan incursions in the neutral area: the events have caused a reaction by Algeria and have raised concern for a possible direct conflict between it and Morocco. One by-product of this conflict has been its impact on regional integration, given Algeria and Morocco’s deep rivalry over the Western Sahara. Such divisions within North Africa have also had carry-on effects on relations with the EU, constraining efforts to foster Euro-Mediterranean integration.

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