A United Nations spokesperson defended the impartiality of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s aides on Thursday, after King Mohammed VI gave a speech in Riyadh accusing the staffers of holding “hostile positions” against Morocco in the Western Sahara dispute.
“All those who serve the U.N., including all those who advise the Secretary-General, are U.N. staff members,” Ki-moon’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said during a press briefing. “They have signed on to the Charter. Their only allegiance is to the United Nations and to serve the Secretary-General, and they give their advice based on that.”
The king made his comments during the opening ceremony of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s joint summit on Wednesday – approximately one month after the Moroccan government evicted the U.N.-affiliated peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, from its offices in the southern cities of Laayoune and Dakhla.
“It is a fact that some of [Ki-moon’s] aides have national agendas,” the king said in the Saudi Arabian capital. “They are politically motivated and they serve other parties’ interests without regard for their duty, as staff members of the United Nations organization, to act impartially and objectively – an obligation that lies at the very heart of U.N. action.”
The Moroccan monarch went on to clarify that his country does not have a “problem” with the members of the Security Council or the U.N. as a whole, but he does take issue with the Secretary-General and unnamed members of his staff.
Dujarric declined to comment on the identities of the aides the king intended during his speech. The spokesperson also said meetings between Moroccan officials and U.N. diplomats have not included an intermediary so far.
The move to expel the international personnel came as a political response to Ki-moon’s remarks in Algiers last month, during which the top official used the term “occupation” to describe Morocco’s presence in the mineral-rich region the kingdom considers to be its “Southern Provinces.”
Shortly after the political aftermath of the U.N. leader’s comments began materializing, Dujarric told reporters that the U.N. leader “regrets” causing the “misunderstandings” that led to the displacement of MINURSO, which had been serving as an intermediate between Morocco and the separatist Polisario Front since 1991: the year that marked the end of a deadly 16-year war for sovereignty over the Sahara.
The North African government rejected the spokesperson’s statement as a “non-apology” and refused to reconsider the mission’s eviction.