U.S. backs UN measure to restore Western Sahara mission

Special to WorldTribune.com

The United States is supporting a resolution to restore the UN mission in Western Sahara.

The UN said the resolution addresses an “urgent need” to restore the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) after Morocco recently expelled 75 UN staffers.

 UN vehicle drives past the headquarters of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), in Laayoune, the largest city of the disputed territory. /AFP/Fadel Senna
A UN vehicle drives past MINURSO headquarters in Laayoune. /AFP/Fadel Senna

Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom and has long resisted UN efforts to resolve the decades-old conflict pitting Morocco against independence-seeking Sahrawi rebels of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.

“MINURSO’s ability to fully carry out its mandate has been affected as the majority of its civilian component, including political personnel, cannot perform their duties within MINURSO’s area of operations,” the UN resolution said.

The draft resolution calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the UN Security Council in four months on whether the MINURSO mission has been restored to “full functionality.”

MINURSO was established in 1991 after a ceasefire ended a war that broke out when Morocco sent troops to the former Spanish territory in 1975. The mission was tasked with organizing a referendum on the future of the territory that never materialized.

The Polisario Front, which has long campaigned for a referendum on self-rule, has called on the Security Council to impose sanctions on Morocco if it refuses to allow MINURSO to operate fully.

“This is unprecedented, this kind of challenge to the Security Council,” said Emhamed Khadad, the coordinator from the Polisario Front.

The crisis was “manufactured by Morocco to distract from its unwillingness to engage in meaningful negotiations” on a final settlement for the territory, Khadad said.