Morocco king rejects independence for Western Sahara

Moroccan King, Mohammed VI, center, arrives at the Great Hall of People for a meeting with China’s Premier Li Keqiang (not in picture) in Beijing, China on May 12, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 07 November 2017

Morocco king rejects independence for Western Sahara

RABAT: Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has ruled out any peace deal that allows for the independence of the Western Sahara as the United Nations renews efforts to resolve the decades-old dispute.
A UN peacekeeping force has been deployed in the former Spanish colony since 1991 with a mandate to organize a referendum on its independence or integration with Morocco.
Morocco agreed to the vote in a 1988 agreement with the pro-independence Polisario Front that ended 13 years of conflict but has since blocked it being held, saying it will accept only autonomy for the territory.
“No settlement of the Sahara affair is possible outside the framework of the full sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara and the autonomy initiative, whose seriousness and credibility the international community has recognized,” the king said in a televised address on Monday.
His speech marked 42 years since hundreds of thousands of Moroccan civilians marched across the border to lay claim to the mineral-rich territory.
The “Green March” triggered war with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front which had been campaigning for independence for the territory since 1973.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in April that called for a new push for talks between Morocco and the Polisario.
The new UN envoy, former German president Horst Kohler, held talks with both sides last month.
The king said Morocco was committed to contributing to the “new momentum” desired by the United Nations and to cooperating with the new envoy.
But he said it would categorically reject “any overreach, any attempt to undermine the legitimate rights of Morocco.”
The king said Morocco would press ahead with its own plans for the development of the Western Sahara, regardless of the progress of the new peace push.
“We are not going to sit idly by waiting for the solution to be found,” he said.
“We will continue to stimulate the development of our southern provinces and provide their people with the conditions for a free and dignified life.”
Tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees have lived for decades in desert camps run by the Polisario in neighboring Algeria.
Spread over 266,000 square kilometers (103,000 square miles) where the desert meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Western Sahara is the last territory on the African continent whose post-colonial status has yet to resolved.
Morocco controls all of the territory’s main towns. The Polisario controls parts of the desert interior.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared by the Polisario is a member of the African Union and recognized by many African governments.
Morocco’s claim to the territory is supported by the Arab League.
The conflict has poisoned relations between Morocco and Algeria for decades. The land border between the North African neighbors has been closed since 1994.


Syria cease-fire has failed as civilians killed daily: UN rights boss

Updated 9 min 10 sec ago

Syria cease-fire has failed as civilians killed daily: UN rights boss

  • Around 350,000 Syrians have fled a renewed Russian-backed offensive in the opposition-held Idlib province since early December
GENEVA: United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Friday for an immediate cessation of hostilies in Idlib, saying that the latest Syrian cease-fire had “yet again failed to protect civilians.”

“It is deeply distressing that civilians are still being killed on a daily basis in missile strikes from both the air and ground,” Bachelet said in a statement on the cease-fire, which was due to be implemented nearly a week ago.

Around 350,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, have fled a renewed Russian-backed offensive in the opposition-held Idlib province since early December, and have sought shelter in border areas near Turkey, the United Nations said on Thursday.