Hundreds of thousands of Moroccans are demonstrating to protest the UN chief's remarks about the contested Western Sahara territory.
Morocco considers the vast mineral-rich region as its "southern provinces" and took offense when UN chief Ban Ki-moon used the word "occupation" after a visit this month to refugee camps for the region's native Sahraouis in southern Algeria.
Protesters on Sunday filled the streets of Rabat after leading Moroccan political parties, unions and non-governmental groups called for a national demonstration.
Authorities claimed there were up to 3 million.
The Moroccan government has expressed its strongest protest.
“His comments were in fact politically inappropriate, unprecedented in the annals and contrary to the Security Council resolutions”, reads a statement by the Moroccan government which notes with utter dismay “the verbal excesses, accomplished facts and unjustified appeasement action by the UN Secretary General during his visit to the region”.
“Morocco noted that, in terms of both the conduct of the visit and the content of the statements, the UN Secretary General has abandoned his neutrality, objectivity and impartiality”, Rabat regrets.
“Morocco also regrets that the SG gave in to the blackmail by the other parties by making a statement of de-facto situations, in violation of the commitments and pledges made to Morocco”. It also regretted that the UN chief let himself be exploited in order to give credit to false claims by other parties.
The Kingdom noted with “dismay” that Ban used the term “occupation” to describe Morocco’s recovery of its territorial integrity, which it says departs from the terminology traditionally used by the United Nations in the Moroccan Sahara issue, the text says.
“This type of semantic misconduct dangerously harms the credibility of the UN Secretary General”, the Moroccan government statement said, adding that the “outrageous remarks hurt the entire Moroccan people’s feelings and dignity”.
The UN has been trying for years to hold a referendum on independence for the territory, which was annexed by Morocco when Spain withdrew in 1975. Morocco proposes increased autonomy instead.
Ban also called for renewed peace efforts during his trip.