Morocco wants to rejoin the African Union (AU), 32 years after quitting the bloc in protest at its decision to accept Western Sahara as a member, King Mohammed VI said on Sunday.
Morocco maintains that Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is an integral part of the kingdom even though local Sahrawi people led by the Polisario Front have long campaigned for the right to self-determination.
"For a long time our friends have been asking us to return to them, so that Morocco can take up its natural place within its institutional family. The moment has now come," the monarch said in a message sent to an AU summit taking place in Kigali, the MAP Moroccan news agency reported.
Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognised by the international community.
Morocco quit the AU in protest in 1984 when the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was admitted as a member.
But although Morocco left the club, "it never quit Africa", King Mohammed said in his message to AU leaders as they began a two-day meeting in the Rwandan capital.
"Through this historic act and return, Morocco wants to work within the AU to transcend divisions," he added.
Morocco's return to the AU would need to be validated by a vote.
Source: MAP, AFP