Morocco on Tuesday rejected the clarification by the spokesman of the UN Secretary General, who spoke on Monday, of a “misunderstanding” about the violent quarrel between Ban and Rabat over the Western Sahara.
Ban strongly irritated the Moroccan authorities recently after speaking of “occupation” of the former Spanish colony that Morocco annexed in 1975 and which it considers an integral part of the kingdom.
On Monday, the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, Stephane Dujarric, assured that “the use of this term was not premeditated or deliberate,” adding: “We regret the misunderstandings and the consequences that this personal expression of solicitude has caused.”
Nothing [Ban] said or did in the course of that trip was meant to offend or express hostility toward the Kingdom of Morocco, which is a valued member of the United Nations.
A spokesman for the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs however said the comments by the UN Secretary General were “unprecedented” and are “neither justifiable nor erasable.”
The controversy over Ban’s comments is Morocco’s worst dispute with the UN since 1991, when the UN brokered a ceasefire to end a war over Western Sahara and established a peacekeeping mission, known as MINURSO.
Ban said the word during a visit to refugee camps in southern Algeria for the Sahrawi people, who contend that Western Sahara belongs to them.
Morocco then ordered the UN to pull out dozens of civilian staffers and close a military liaison office for the MINURSO peacekeeping mission.
It said its decision was irreversible, but that the government was committed to military cooperation to guarantee a ceasefire.
“Nothing [Ban] said or did in the course of that trip was meant to offend or express hostility toward the Kingdom of Morocco, which is a valued member of the United Nations,” Dujarric said.
Rabat has accused Ban of dropping the UN’s neutral stance on the Western Sahara dispute.
UN officials had repeatedly urged the UN Security Council to publicly voice its support for Ban and MINURSO, which the 15-nation body did late last Thursday in New York.
However, the council did not explicitly order Morocco to reverse its decisions or address Ban’s use of the word “occupation”.