Morocco Peacekeepers called back following UN chief remarks

A UN spokesman confirmed Wednesday that Morocco has sent notice it is ending support to the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and withdrawing peacekeepers from three other UN missions in protest of a recent remark by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Western Sahara.

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The spokesman, Stephan Dujarric, said at a daily news briefing here that the Foreign Ministry of Morocco informed the UN Secretariat of its intention to “significantly” reduce the civilian component of MINURSO, specifically its political branch, and with immediate effect end its voluntary contributions.

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Dujarric said that would amount to more than 3 million U.S. dollars.

The communique received Tuesday also said Morocco was withdrawing its UN peacekeeping contingents from various missions.

Ban recently was visiting refugee camps in Western Sahara and referred to the region as being “occupied.” That touched off protest demonstration in Rabat as well as the government’s decision.
“The secretary-general said what he said,” Dujarric said. “He is not going to walk away from it.”

MINURSO was mandated in 1991 and a referendum was to be held to determine the territory’s future, but conditions for it were never agreed.

The region was part of Spain’s colonial domain until withdrawing in 1975 and Morocco annexed the territory as its Southern Provinces. Members of the Polisario Front then fought for Western Sahara’s independence.

“While the secretary-general acknowledges that there are differences of opinion on the Western Sahara issue, he continues to believe that, 40 years after, it is important to resolve this long-standing dispute and open the way to the return of the Sahrawi refugees to their homes,” said the spokesman.

He said the secretary-general again called for “genuine negotiations in good faith and without preconditions at each stop on his recent trip.” Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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