Ban-Ki-Moon wants more efforts to resolce Western Sahara issue

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for an "independent and impartial understanding" of human rights in the disputed North African territory of Western Sahara, according to a report seen by Reuters on Friday.

Ban's annual report on Western Sahara stopped short of recommending the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the territory (MINURSO) monitor rights, which the African Union has urged.
"I call on the Parties to continue and further enhance their cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms and OHCHR, including by facilitating OHCHR missions to Western Sahara and the refugee camps near Tindouf, with unrestricted access to all relevant stakeholders," Ban said in the report.
"These missions and other future forms of cooperation ... should contribute to an independent and impartial understanding of the human rights situation in both Western Sahara and the camps, with the goal of ensuring protection of all," he added.
The Security Council is expected to renew MINURSO's mandate this month.
Morocco rejects the idea of MINURSO conducting human rights monitoring and says the African Union has no business meddling in the issue. Morocco is not a member of the African Union due to Western Sahara.
Polisario now runs refugee camps at Tindouf in Algeria.
Morocco's U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
The 1991 ceasefire settlement called for a referendum on the territory's fate. But the referendum, which MINURSO was deployed to help organise, never took place, and attempts to reach a lasting political deal have foundered.
"It is vital that all human rights protection gaps and underlying human rights issues in situations of protracted conflict be addressed," Ban said in the report. "This would also contribute to creating an environment conducive to the negotiating process."
Rabat wants Western Sahara to be an autonomous part of Morocco. Polisario, backed by a number of African countries including Algeria, wants to hold the long-promised referendum among the region's ethnic Sahrawis that would include the option of independence. Morocco and Polisario disagree on who should vote in a referendum.