UN chief committed to negotiating a solution in Western Sahara conflict

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) with Mohamed Abdelaziz, Secretary General of the Polisario Front. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

10 June 2013 – After meeting with the head of the Frente Polisario, one of the parties in the dispute over the status of Western Sahara, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated the United Nations’ commitment to a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve the long-running conflict.

“Secretary-General Ban reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to assisting Morocco and the Frente Polisario to negotiate a solution to their long-standing dispute over the future status of Western Sahara in accordance with UN resolutions,” his office said after Mr. Ban met with Mohammed Abdelaziz, Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario.

The UN has been involved in mediation efforts to find a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the movement known as Frente Polisario, after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.

During today’s meeting in New York, Mr. Ban “underlined his continued strong interest in respect for human rights in Western Sahara and in the refugee camps,” according to his office.

The UN chief also expressed his concern over the increasing “frustration and vulnerability” that the absence of a settlement and the instability of the Sahel region have produced among young people in the refugee camps near Tindouf.

Some of the refugees living in the camps have been there for over three decades, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), both active in the camps.

Mr. Ban commended the Frente Polisario's continuing commitment to the path of dialogue.

He encouraged the Frente Polisario to remain constructively engaged with his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, who has called on both parties to demonstrate flexibility and creativity in working toward a solution.

A UN peacekeeping force, known as the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been in place since 1991. The Security Council mandated MINURSO with monitoring the ceasefire in the area and organizing a referendum on self-determination for the people of the territory.

The Mission’s mandate was extended earlier this year to 30 April 2014.

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