Morocco says UN to resolve Western Sahara dispute

Addis Ababa - Morocco's top diplomat said on Tuesday that the United Nations is to lead efforts to end a dispute over a partially recognised state in Western Sahara that Rabat considers its territory.

Speaking in Addis Ababa at his first African Union summit since Morocco returned to the bloc in January, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the AU had backed the move.

Morocco left the AU in 1984 after the latter admitted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, proclaimed by the separatist Polisario Front in Western Sahara.

Bourita said he was "very satisfied" by the AU decision to allow the UN to lead attempts to resolve the Western Sahara question, with a resolution urging "appropriate support" of the UN Secretary General's efforts.

"The manoeuvres, the dithering has been discarded. Today, we have positions that go in the right direction," Bourita said.

Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, when Rabat took over the desert territory before the signing of the UN-brokered ceasefire.

Rabat, which considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco, proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Polisario insists on an independence referendum.

Some African countries consider Morocco's claim to Western Sahara to be a form of colonialism.

The UN Security Council in May endorsed new peace talks between Morocco and Polisario, while renewing for a year the mandate of MINURSO, its peacekeeping mission in the disputed region.

Polisario said it was ready to negotiate with Morocco but wanted the AU to be involved as well.

Bourita said the AU's role in the talks should only be to recognise whatever agreement is reached via the UN.

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