Morocco on Tuesday accused United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon of speaking out of turn during a visit to restart talks between Rabat and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front on disputed Western Sahara.
The Moroccan government noted “with great surprise the verbal outpourings… and unjustified gestures of deference” by Ban during his visit, according to a statement released by the official MAP news agency.
It was unclear exactly to what comments Rabat was referring.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon (L) arrives for a meeting with the Polisario Front’s representative at the UN, on March 5, 2016, near a UN base in Bir-Lahlou, in the disputed territory of Western Sahara ©Farouk Batiche (AFP/File)
During a weekend stop in the Algerian capital Ban criticised Morocco and the Polisario Front for failing to make “real progress” towards an “acceptable” solution to end the 40-year conflict in the disputed desert territory.
Ban added that the UN mission to the region was “prepared to hold a referendum if there is agreement between the parties”, an initiative supported by Algeria, the Polisario Front’s main backer.
“Far from achieving the stated goal of his visit to relaunch political dialogue, the secretary general’s comments could jeopardise the process,” the statement by the Moroccan government added.
The UN has been trying to oversee an independence referendum for Western Sahara since 1992 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war that broke out when Morocco sent its forces to the former Spanish territory in 1975.
Morocco has ruled out the idea of independence and argues for a broad autonomy for the territory under its sovereignty.
The UN envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, resumed diplomatic efforts in February 2015.