"This is a question that I would certainly like to examine more closely, ... before I give you a detailed answer," the future Pentagon chief said during his hearing in the Senate.
Lloyd Austin was questioned by Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the United States Senate Defense Committee, on his position regarding the holding of a self-determination referendum in this territory occupied by Morocco since 1975.
He claimed that the Western Sahara dossier will be "one of the issues he will examine," immediately after his confirmation as US defense secretary.
In his intervention Tuesday in the Senate, James Inhofe, fervent defender of the Sahrawi cause, recalled the opinion of the International Court of Justice rendered in 1975 which confirmed the absence of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and supported the need for the Sahrawi people to exercise their right to self-determination.
The Senator noted that the United States, the United Nations and the African Union have all supported the right of the Sahrawis to self-determination and to achieve independence.
“We have supported a self-determination referendum. The United States has done so since the 1970s, the UN since the 1970s and also the African Union and most of the 52 countries in Africa all have declared that Western Sahara should hold a self-determination referendum,” Inhofe recalled.
The Oklahoma senator expressed the wish that the new American administration preserves the consistency observed for three decades with regard to this matter.