DAKHLA, Western Sahara (AP) — Trawlers pack the bustling Western Saharan port of Dakhla, where fish scales glisten from workers’ arms as they roll up their nets and buyers shout bids in a sprawling auction warehouse. Nearby, turquoise waters lap wide, nearly empty Atlantic beaches and diners sip tea in sidewalk cafes.
The United States plans to put its footprint in this picturesque setting.
U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David T. Fischer took part in a ceremony Sunday in Dakhla, the first formal step to open a consulate, marking a turning point for the disputed and closely policed territory in North Africa.
The U.S. move recognizes Morocco’s authority over the land — in exchange for Morocco normalizing relations with Israel.
Fischer was joined by the top State Department official for the region, David Schenker. Both diplomats wore white Moroccan robes.
“Our trip today to Dakhla is another historic milestone in more than 200 years of friendship between the Kingdom of Morocco and the United States of America,” the U.S. Embassy in Morocco’s Twitter account quoted him as saying.
While this shift in U.S. foreign policy frustrates indigenous Sahrawis who have sought Western Sahara’s independence for decades, others see new opportunities for trade and tourism that will provide a welcome boost for the region and sun-kissed coastal cities like Dakhla.
Addressing the gathering, the U.S. ambassador said the opening of a consulate is a plus for the United States, allowing it to “take further advantage of Morocco’s