Addis Ababa (AFP) - Morocco on Friday made an official request to return to the African Union, 32 years after quitting the bloc in protest at its decision to accept Western Sahara as a member.
"The Kingdom of Morocco has officially submitted a request to accede to the African Union (AU) Constitutive Act, and therefore, become a Member of the Union," the AU said in a statement.
Rabat first announced its intention to return to the club in July, with King Mohammed VI saying his country wanted to "take up its natural place within its institutional family."
Morocco quit the AU in protest in 1984 when the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) -- commonly known as Western Sahara -- was admitted as a member.
Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognised by the international community.
It maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom even though local Sahrawi people have long campaigned for the right to self-determination.
In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Moroccan troops and Sahrawi rebels of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front but a promised referendum to settle the status of the desert territory is yet to materialise.
The Moroccan monarch in July said his nation's decision to return to the AU did not mean it was changing its stance on Western Sahara.
Rabat's membership bid must be approved by a vote of the AU Commission in order to be accepted.