Polisario condemns Morocco king speech on Western Sahara

Algiers (AFP) –


The Polisario Front on Wednesday condemned a speech by Moroccan King Mohammed VI ruling out independence for the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The speech on Monday "contradicts the commitments of Morocco", said a senior official of the pro-independence movement, Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, quoted by the Algerian news agency APS.

He said the king's stand ran contrary to commitments to the African Union banning occupation of the territory of a fellow member country.

Morocco rejoined the AU in January, having walked out in 1984 in protest at the admission of the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is recognised by several Arab states, as a member.

Mohammed ruled out any peace deal that allows for Western Sahara independence, as the United Nations renews efforts to resolve the decades-old dispute.

A UN peacekeeping force has been deployed in the former Spanish colony since 1991 with a mandate to organise a referendum on its independence or integration with Morocco.

Morocco agreed to the vote in a 1988 agreement with the 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," the king said in a televised address.

His speech marked 42 years since hundreds of thousands of Moroccan civilians marched across the border to lay claim to the mineral-rich territory.

The "Green March" triggered war with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front which had been campaigning for independence for the territory since 1973.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in April that called for a new push for talks between Morocco and the Polisario.

Tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees have lived for decades in desert camps run by the Polisario in neighbouring Algeria.

Spread over 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 square miles) where the desert meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Western Sahara is the last territory on the African continent whose post-colonial status has yet to resolved.

Morocco controls all of the territory's main towns. The Polisario controls parts of the desert interior.