The Moroccan government reacted vehemently on Tuesday to the statements that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made during his recent visit to the Tindouf camps in Algeria this past weekend.
Following his meetings with Algerian officials, as well as with the leaders Polisario, Ban Ki-moon expressed his sympathy with the separatists and described Morocco’s sovereignty over its Saharan provinces (known as Western Sahara) as “occupation.”
“The Government of the Kingdom of Morocco expresses its strongest protest following the remarks made by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during his recent visit to Tindouf and Algiers on the Sahara issue,” said a statement released by the Moroccan government on Tuesday.
“His comments are politically inappropriate, unprecedented, and contrary to Security Council resolutions,” the statement said.
“It is with great amazement that the Moroccan government takes note of the verbal excesses, the fait accompli and unjustified complacency gestures of the UN Secretary General during his visit to the region.”
The statement went to add that the UN chief showed his bias in favor of the Algeria-backed Polisario front.
“Morocco has seen, both in terms of the conduct of the visit and the content of the statements, that the Secretary General has abandoned its neutrality, objectivity and impartiality.”
“Morocco also regrets that the Secretary General has yielded to the blackmail of the other parties by following the fait accompli in violation of the commitments and guarantees he gave to Morocco and that he gives credit to the false claims of the other parties.”
The statement said that Morocco has seen “with amazement that the Secretary General used the term ‘occupation’ to describe the recovery by Morocco of its territorial integrity.”
“This departs from terminology traditionally used by the United Nations in the Moroccan Sahara,” said the statement.
The Moroccan government pointed out that Ban Ki-moon statements make him unfit to play the role of a neutral mediator in the conflict, adding that this his position has “hurt the feelings” of the Moroccan people.
“This type of semantic slippage dangerously undermines the credibility of the UN Secretary General,” says the statement.
“These outrageous words hurt the feelings and dignity of the entire Moroccan people,” the statement concluded.
Ban Ki-moon attempts to revive an unworkable solution
During his tour in the region, Ban Ki-moon said that the UN Mission in the Western Sahara, known as MIUNRSO, was ready to conduct a referendum if the two parties agreed to proceed with it.
The UN chief’s statement stands in contrast to the conclusions made by his predecessor Kofi Anan, as well as two former UN Personal Envoys to the Western Sahara, both of whom stressed that the referendum was unworkable.
The United Nations settlement plan adopted by the UN Security Council in 1991 called for organizing a referendum to enable the Saharawi population to decide whether it wants independence or integration with Morocco.
After 10 years of failed attempts, former US Secretary of State James Baker, who was between 1997 and 2004 the UNSG’s Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara, concluded that a situation by means of a referendum was unworkable. The main insurmountable hindrance was voter eligibility. The parties involved in the conflict spent 10 years trying to determine who was Saharawi and who had the right to participate in such a referendum.
Beginning in 2004, the UN Security Council started progressively putting the option of the referendum and the independence of the territory on the back burner and called on the parties to develop new, innovative ideas likely to help the parties reach a long-lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.
In April 2008, Peter Van Walsum, a Dutch diplomat, who was appointed in July 2005 as UNSG Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara, said that the establishment of an independent state in the territory was “not realistic.” This statement stoked the ire of Algeria and the Polisario, who pressured Ban Ki-moon to push for Van Walsum’s resignation.
Following the resignation of Van Walsum, Ban Ki-moon appointed American diplomat Christopher Ross as his new personal envoy. From January 2009 until 2012, Ross led nine rounds of indirect talks between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario.
In his seven years as UNSG personal envoy, the American diplomat failed to bring any proposal to the negotiating table and help the parties break the deadlock.