Netherlands backs Morocco's Western Sahara autonomy plan- statement

MARRAKECH, Morocco, May 11 (Reuters) - The Netherlands views Morocco's plan for autonomy for Western Sahara as serious and credible, it said on Wednesday, moving closer to Rabat's stance on the disputed territory where the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks an independent state.

In a joint statement with Morocco after a meeting of their foreign ministers in Rabat, the Netherlands also said it supported U.N. efforts to reach a "just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution".

The Netherlands joins a growing number of Western, Arab and African countries to voice support for Morocco's 2007 autonomy proposal as a way to end the decades-long conflict.

Morocco, which regards Western Sahara as its own, has controlled the territory since the mid-1970s when colonial power Spain departed and says the most it can offer is autonomy under its sovereignty.

Its conflict with the Polisario was frozen in 1991 with a U.N.-backed ceasefire that included a plan for a referendum to resolve the territory's status.

However, rules for the referendum were never agreed and the U.N. has stopped referring to it as an option, instead calling on parties to show compromise and work towards a "mutually acceptable solution".

The Polisario said in late 2020 that it was resuming its armed struggle though there has been no evidence of serious fighting.

Morocco has been gathering support for its autonomy plan from western countries, since the United States recognised Rabat's sovereignty over the territory in 2020.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, editing by Angus McDowall and Toby Chopra

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