Ban Ki-moon pushes for Western Sahara conflict talks
(10 March 2016)
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Saharawi refugee camps in southern Algeria on Saturday 5th March as part of efforts to restart negotiations to end the dispute between the Polisario independence movement and Morocco over the Western Sahara territory.
The Polisario Front, which says the territory belongs to ethnic Saharawis, waged a guerrilla war after Morocco took over the area from colonial Spain in 1975 until a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in 1991. The two sides have been deadlocked since.
The Polisario, backed by Algeria and a number of other African states, wants to hold a referendum on the region's future, as was called for in the U.N. ceasefire deal. Polisario leader Mohammed Abdelaziz stated: "We want to hear from the Secretary-General in order to achieve a solution this year".
Morocco's king late last year insisted that only an autonomy plan was acceptable. Rabat has invested heavily in Western Sahara, hoping to calm social unrest and independence claims, and in February announced a $1.85 billion investment plan for the region.
During the visit to the area Ban said: "I will spare no effort to help make progress towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution for Western Sahara".