UN chief angry over Western Sahara protests in Morocco

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expresses anger over huge demonstration in Morocco's capital Rabat against his stance on disputed Western Sahara region

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses a news conference follwing talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, March 8, 2016.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told Morocco's foreign minister on Monday that he was frustrated and disappointed by a demonstration in Rabat.

He said it was a personal attack on him over his statement about the disputed Western Sahara region last week, using the word "occupation" to describe Morocco’s presence in the region after a visit to refugee camps for the region's native Sahrawis this month in southern Algeria.

Rabat accused Ban last week of not being objective in his comments. 

Nearly one million people in Morocco marched in the capital Rabat on Sunday to protest against the United Nations secretary-general’s statement on the disputed Western Sahara territory.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses with children as he visits the Smara refugee camp near Tindouf, south-western Algeria, Saturday.

Ban "conveyed his astonishment at the recent statement of the government of Morocco and expressed his deep disappointment and anger regarding the demonstration that was mobilized on Sunday, which targeted him in person," his press office said in a statement.

His comments were a "personal reaction to the deplorable humanitarian conditions in which the Sahrawi refugees have lived in for far too long," said the statement, which was released after he met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar.

The United Nations has been trying to broker a settlement in the Western Sahara since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war that broke out when Morocco sent its forces to the former Spanish territory in 1975.

The Fate of Western Sahara

Morocco considers the mineral-rich Western Sahara as an integral part of its territory since it took control of the region after the withdrawal of former colonial power Spain.

The Polisario Front, which is a nationalist movement in the Western Sahara, fought against Morocco until a UN -brokered- ceasefire in 1991.

The Polisario Front, backed by Morocco’s regional rival Algeria and several African states, seeks a referandum promised in the ceasefire agreement. However, Morocco says that it will not allow more than autonomy for the region.

TRTWorld and agencies