Polisario Front, a group seeking Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, says the region could become engulfed in war if the United Nations fails to press for a regional independence vote.
On Tuesday, Bachir Mustafa Sayed, who advises the Front’s Secretary-General Mohammad Abdulaziz, said the world body had to set a date for such a referendum.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and considers it the country’s “southern province.” It has proposed autonomy for Africa’s last colony, something Polisario stiffly rejects.
Last month, Morocco asked the UN to withdraw over 80 international staff members from its peacekeeping Western Sahara mission, which monitors a ceasefire between the Moroccan government and the Polaisario Front.
The request was made after UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the country has “occupied” the mineral-rich region. Morocco subsequently expelled the UN mission.
Ban, who has warned that the expulsion could be exploited by “terrorist and radical elements” and lead to full-scale war, has proposed that the mission’s mandate be extended until April 30, 2017. The UN Security Council is to vote on the matter on Wednesday.
Sayed, who was addressing a press conference in Madrid, said the proposal is not enough and urged a plebiscite on independence.
He also reiterated support by Algeria — which houses a refugee camp where Polisario is based — for Western Sahara’s independence. “The Algerians have reaffirmed that they are on the side of the Saharans in any situation.”