Western Sahara referendum key to peace

2016-03-17 06:27
A member of the Polisario Front stands guard during a visit of the United Nations chief in Bir-Lahlou, in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. (Farouk Batiche , AFP)

A member of the Polisario Front stands guard during a visit of the United Nations chief in Bir-Lahlou, in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. (Farouk Batiche , AFP)

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Algiers - A referendum on the future of the disputed territory of Western Sahara holds the key to peace and stability in North Africa, the pro-independence Polisario Front said on Wednesday.

The former Spanish territory has been back in the spotlight after UN chief Ban Ki-moon angered Morocco by using the word "occupation" to describe its status.

"There will be no peace or stability in the region so long as the Sahrawi people are denied the right to self-determination," Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, a leader of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, told a news conference in Algiers.

He said that Morocco "knows full well that the Sahrawi people will choose independence if a referendum is held".

"We are not Moroccans and we refuse to become Moroccans," he said.

The resources-rich Western Sahara is at the centre of a four-decade-old dispute.

Morocco considers the territory to be part of the kingdom and insists its sovereignty cannot be challenged.

The United Nations has been trying to broker a Western Sahara settlement since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached in a war between Rabat and the Polisario Front that broke out when Morocco deployed its military in the territory in 1975 after Spain's withdrawal.

A self-determination referendum was to have been held in 1992 but has been repeatedly called off.

Read more on:    morocco  |  western sahara  |  north africa

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