Viet Nam News
UNITED NATIONS, United States – The UN Security Council said Tuesday that more UN staff must return to the peace mission in Western Sahara after Morocco allowed a first group of 25 staffers back at their posts.
Morocco expelled dozens of UN personnel in March in angry retaliation for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s use of the term "occupation" to describe the status of Western Sahara.
The council adopted a resolution in April demanding that the mission known as MINURSO return to "full functionality" and gave Morocco three months to reach the goal.
Following a closed-door council meeting, Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho, who holds the council presidency, said: "We have not reached that goal of full functionality. Moves are certainly needed."
Council members hope that the mission will be fully restored "as soon as possible", he added.
Rabat’s decision to send about 75 staffers home crippled the mission’s work to help maintain a 1991 ceasefire in the disputed territory.
Morocco this month allowed 25 UN staffers to return to Laayoune, where MINURSO is headquartered, but the United Nations is demanding that the staffing level be fully restored.
Morocco’s Ambassador Omar Hilale told reporters after the council meeting that the "crisis is over," adding that "25 are already back, the rest will be back."
He declined however to give figures or a timetable for the returning staff.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said there had been progress in resolving the dispute.
The Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which has long campaigned for a referendum on self-rule, said it expected more staff to return in the coming weeks.
The Polisario Front’s UN representative, Ahmed Boukhari, however accused Morocco of blocking attempts by the United Nations to re-launch negotiations on settling the 40-year conflict.
The UN envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, has been trying for weeks to set a date for a visit to the region, but no firm date has been announced.
"The Moroccan door is closed to Mister Ross," Boukhari said.
Council members stressed the importance of resuming negotiations on a "political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara," added the Japanese ambassador.
Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom despite UN resolutions that task MINURSO with organizing a referendum on self-determination.
MINURSO was established in 1991 after a ceasefire ended a war that broke out when Morocco sent troops to the former Spanish territory in 1975 and fought Sahrawi rebels of the Polisario Front. – AFP