African Union
A general view taken shows the 26th presidential summit of the African Union held in January 2016 in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaTONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

After months of intense lobbying, Morocco has been readmitted as a member of the African Union (AU). The North African country left the organisation after an acrimonious row in which the AU recognised the independence of Western Sahara, which was viewed by Morocco as part of its historic territory.

After the backing of a huge majority of states, Morocco regained its membership within the AU on Monday (30 January). Previously it was the only African country that was not a member of the body.

"There was a very long debate but 39 of our 54 states approved the return of Morocco, even if the Western Sahara question remains," Senegalese President Macky Sall told the media.

Member states decided to leave the question of the disputed territory of Western Sahara for another time, and take Morocco "back in the family," according to AFP.

"From the moment that Morocco did not impose conditions ... we take their word for it and accept that Morocco be admitted to the African Union," said Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, foreign minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which claims sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Morocco left what was then known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 after the organisation admitted the former Western Sahara as an independent member.

There were concerns that Morocco would seek the expulsion of the SADR as a condition for returning to the AU.

Summit delegates at the 28th AU summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa held a tense and emotional debate. South Africa and Algeria were vehemently opposed to the re-entry of Morocco.

Morocco has been mooting a return to the AU for many years, hoping to enhance its economy and recognising that being a member of the pan-African body would be financially beneficial. For the AU, the return of Morocco, the sixth largest economy in Africa, will be highly profitable.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI, who has been lobbying hard for his country's return, will deliver a speech on Tuesday (31 January) in front of the African leaders in Addis Ababa, according to Morocco World News.

In June 2016, the chair of the summit, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, visited Rabaat, where he received Morocco's highest state decoration.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar has led a concerted diplomatic campaign in recent years, meeting with the presidents of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Senegal, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and the prime ministers of Libya and Ethiopia to strengthen its economic and diplomatic relations with those nations.