Washington, DC, April 28, 2015 (MACP) — Today, the United Nations once again renewed the mandate for MINURSO, its peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, calling for “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to the conflict.” The renewal follows the release of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s annual report on Western Sahara in which he wrote that “there can be no justification for continuing to maintain the status quo” and highlighted “the need to address registration of the refugee population” in the Polisario-controlled refugee camps in southwestern Algeria.
In a speech delivered to the nation in November 2014, King Mohammed VI said of the Western Sahara conflict, “Morocco is ready to cooperate with all parties to reach a solution that respects its sovereignty, that is face-saving for everyone and that contributes to consolidating security and stability in the region and to the achievement of Maghreb integration,” adding his “appreciation to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization and to the major international powers – especially the United States of America and the White House in particular – for making a positive contribution at various stages to finding a solution to this issue.”
MINURSO was established in 1991 to monitor a ceasefire between Morocco and the Algeria-backed separatist movement known as the Polisario Front. After more than a decade of failed attempts to organize a referendum on the status of Western Sahara, the UN decided in 2004 to abandon the idea of a referendum and pursue a negotiated political solution to the conflict. In 2007, and with the encouragement of the United States, Morocco proposed such a compromise solution based on broad autonomy for the Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. In 2008, concluding that “an independent Western Sahara is not an attainable goal,” UN negotiator Peter van Walsum proposed that the next round of negotiations focus only on a negotiated political solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. This year’s UN Security Council resolution once again recalled this report from 2008 and encouraged the parties to negotiate in the spirit of “realism” and “compromise.”
The recent joint statement released following the third US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue, held earlier this month in Washington, reiterated that US policy toward Western Sahara supporting autonomy of the region under Moroccan sovereignty “has remained consistent for many years.” At the Dialogue, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “Morocco’s autonomy plan is serious, realistic, and credible, and that it represents a potential approach that could satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.” Secretary Kerry and Morocco’s Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar also reaffirmed their “shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people in the Western Sahara and discussed appropriate ways to meet that goal.”
“For more than 10 years the UN has called on Morocco and the Polisario Front to reach a negotiated settlement, and Morocco in 2007 proposed such a compromise solution recognized by the international community as credible and realistic,” said Jordan Paul, Executive Director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy. “It’s time to move on that compromise. Forty years is far too long for tens of thousands of Sahrawis to be stranded in desolate refugee camps while Polisario leaders line their pockets.”
In January 2015, French news agency AFP revealed that it had obtained a report on a four-year investigation (2003-2007) by the European Union’s Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) documenting “well-organized, years-long” embezzlement by the Polisario Front of humanitarian aid designated for Sahrawi refugees in the Polisario-run camps, enabled by the Polisario’s refusal to allow the UN to run a census of the camp populations.
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
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