Ban meets with Moroccan Foreign Minister; discusses efforts to settle Western Sahara dispute
14 March 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met today in New York with Salaheddine Mezouar, the Foreign Minister of Morocco, to exchange views on the state of efforts to settle the Western Sahara dispute, as well as his recent visit to the region to explore ways to intensify the negotiating process.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General took note of the misunderstanding related to his use of the word “occupation” as his personal reaction to the deplorable humanitarian conditions in which the Sahrawi refugees have lived in for far too long.
While in the region two weeks ago, Mr. Ban called for efforts to alleviate the plight of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria who are dealing with an “unacceptable situation,” saying the parties to the Western Sahara conflict had not made any real progress in the negotiations towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.
Spain's colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976 and fighting subsequently broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front. A ceasefire was reached in September 1991, and a UN mission – known as MINURSO – has been tasked with monitoring this ceasefire and organizing a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara, which the Security Council has been requesting since 2004.
Meanwhile, Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy, while the Polisario Front's position is that the Territory's final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.
According to today's statement, the Secretary-General in his meeting with the Foreign Minister also conveyed his astonishment at the recent statement of the Moroccan Government and expressed his deep disappointment and anger regarding the demonstration that was mobilized on Sunday 13 March, which targeted him in person.
“He stressed that such attacks are disrespectful to him and to the United Nations. He also requested a clarification regarding the reported presence of several members of the Moroccan Government among the demonstrators,” the statement said, adding that Mr. Ban asked the Foreign Minister to ensure that the United Nations enjoys respect in Morocco.
The statement went on to note that by choosing to misrepresent the purpose and progression of the Secretary-General's trip to the region, the demonstrators, and their sponsors, deliberately chose to ignore that at every stop on his trip he underlined his personal commitment to encouraging genuine negotiations between the parties to achieve “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”, as the UN Security Council has repeatedly requested.
“The Secretary-General underscored to the Foreign Minister that he has adhered closely to the Security Council's mandate, said the statement, adding that the UN chief reiterated his 4 November 2015 call for genuine and serious negotiations without preconditions to make progress soonest.