Agence France Presse
RABAT: Morocco’s King Mohammad VI has ruled out any peace deal that allows for the independence of the Western Sahara as the United Nations renews efforts to resolve the decades-old dispute.
A U.N. peacekeeping force has been deployed in the former Spanish colony since 1991 with a mandate to organize a referendum on its independence or integration with Morocco. Morocco agreed to the vote in a 1988 agreement with the pro-independence Polisario Front that ended 13 years of conflict but has since blocked it being held, saying it will accept only autonomy for the territory.
“No settlement of the Sahara affair is possible outside the framework of the full sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara and the autonomy initiative, whose seriousness and credibility the international community has recognized,” the king said in a televised address Monday.
His speech marked 42 years since hundreds of thousands of Moroccan civilians marched across the border to lay claim to the territory.
The “Green March” triggered war with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front that had been campaigning for independence for the territory since 1973.
The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution in April that called for a new push for talks between Morocco and the Polisario.
The king said Morocco was committed to contributing to the “new momentum” desired by the United Nations and to cooperating with the new envoy.
But the king said it would categorically reject “any overreach, any attempt to undermine the legitimate rights of Morocco.”
Tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees have lived for decades in desert camps run by the Polisario in neighboring Algeria.
The Western Sahara is the last territory on the African continent whose postcolonial status has yet to resolved.