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Western Sahara conflict could flare up - AU envoy warns

Western Sahara

<p>The former president of Mozambique, Joachim Chissano, has warned that the conflict in Western Sahara could flare up again if the United Nations’ mission (<span class="caps">MINURSO</span>) is not fully restored. </p> <p>Morocco last month expelled 84 UN civilian staff after Ban Ki-moon used the term ‘occupation’ in reference to the country’s annexation of the region. </p> <p>Morocco took control of the arid country when colonial power Spain left in 1975.</p> <p>The comment by the UN chief has enraged the north African country which has threatened to pull out its troops from global UN peacekeeping operations mainly in Africa. </p> <p>Chissano, who is the African Union’s envoy to Western Sahara told an informal meeting of the UN Security Council that “the Western Sahara problem may be seen as a small problem, but let us not forget that a spark may put a forest on fire,” the <span class="caps">BBC</span> quoted him as saying.</p> <p>He has also described the expulsion of the UN staff from the region as a “dangerous precedent” as other countries with Security Council-mandated peacekeeping and political missions could decide to expel UN troops and staff as well, the Associated Press reports.</p> <p>The UN has said the departure of its staff has made it impossible for <span class="caps">MINURSO</span> to execute its mandate. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the leader of the Polisario front, Mohamed Abdelaziz has warned that the absence of UN peacekeepers in the state could be considered a green light for military aggression by Morocco against the Sahrawi people.</p> <p>The UN brokered a truce between Morocco and the indigenous Saharawi people in 1991 to end a 16-year insurgency. </p> <p>It then set up <span class="caps">MINURSO</span> with the task of organising a referendum on the future of the territory, but that is yet to happen.</p>