The United Nations Security Council has voted on Friday to extend its peacekeeping mission for a year and requested an immediate full activities of the body in the disputed Western Sahara after Morocco expelled international staff.
Rabat last month expelled the peacekeeping mission known as MINURSO alongside civilian staff after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to Morocco’s 1975 annexation of the Western Sahara as “occupation”.
The US-drafted resolution was supported by 10 countries, Venezuela and Uruguay opposed it, while Russia, New Zealand and Angola abstained from the voting.
The resolution requested Ban to report back within 90 days on whether the mission's functionality had been restored. However, it does not threaten any measures against Rabat if the mission remains understaffed.
"It should not have been like this," New Zealand's UN Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen told the 15-nation council. "The resolution should have stated the reality, that the expulsion of the civilian component has seriously compromised the mission and its ability to discharge its mandate."
US Ambassador Samantha Power said the weeks of negotiations over the resolution on MINURSO's extension, one of council's most heated annual debates, was even more difficult this time.
"This year's mandate renewal was challenging and contentious," she said. "That is an understatement."
Veto power France was accused by Polisario's UN representative Ahmed Boukhari of preventing the council from threatening punitive measures against Morocco if it refused to let MINURSO restore full staffing.
However, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said the resolution was balanced.
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 referendum promised in the ceasefire agreement. However, Morocco says that it will not allow more than autonomy for the region.