The leader of Western Sahara’s Polisario Front separatist movement on Thursday wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging him and the Security Council to put pressure on Morocco to stop interfering with peacekeeping.
Mohamed Abdelaziz warned that absence of UN peacekeepers in the state will be considered a green light to a military aggression by the Kingdom of Morocco against the Sahrawi people.
Last month, Morocco expelled 83 staff working for the UN mission there known as MINURSO after Ban used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara in 1975 from colonial power Spain.
Polisario said Morocco is putting the ceasefire at risk by expelling MINURSO staff and trying to disrupt the plan for a referendum on independence. Morocco has offered an autonomy plan as the only way forward.
Several diplomatic sources familiar with the issue said that Morocco wants the council to change the mandate of MINURSO so that it will no longer include the goal of organizing a referendum.
The majority of council members are opposed, the sources said, though they added that Morocco has some diplomatic support from veto power France, Rabat’s traditional ally, and African council member Senegal.
The controversy over Ban’s comment during a visit to refugee camps for Sahrawi people is Morocco’s worst dispute with the United Nations since 1991, when the U.N. brokered a ceasefire to end a war over Western Sahara and established MINURSO.