World Bulletin / News Desk
The UN mission in the Western Sahara is not playing any real role in the disputed region, political analysts believe.
The Western Sahara is disputed between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which says the territory belongs to the Sahrawis.
While Polisario, which is backed by Morocco’s regional rival Algeria, wants a referendum on the region's fate, Morocco has said it will not offer more than autonomy for the region.
In 1991, the two sides signed a ceasefire, but talks aimed at resolving the conflict have since been deadlocked.
In March, Morocco cut staff at the UN mission known as MINURSO in protest of comment by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the Western Sahara, in which he used the word “occupation” during a visit to refugee camps for native Sahrawis in southern Algeria.
“It’s necessary to change the role of MINURSO and set out a clear roadmap for resolving the issue,” Abdel-Fattah al-Fatayhi, a specialist in the Western Sahara affairs, told Anadolu Agency. “Morocco wants to change the MINURSO mission, especially that it no longer plays its basic role regarding organizing a referendum.”
Al-Fatayhi said that while Ban presses for expanding MINURSO’s role in the Western Sahara, “Morocco wants its role reduced”.
He said the Group of Friends of Western Sahara, which includes the U.S., France, the U.K., Russia and Spain, was trying to bridge the gap between the two sides.
MINURSO was established in April 1991, after the UN brokered a ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front.
Political analyst Saeed al-Sedeki believes that some world powers do not want a resolution to the Western Sahara conflict. “Some world powers don’t want the Western Sahara issue resolved as it will boost Morocco’s position,” he said.
Just last week, the UN Security Council extended MINURSO’s mission in the Western Sahara for one year.
The Moroccan government, however, denounced the extension, describing it as a “setback”.
“The status quo will continue unless there is a radical change…in terms of mutual suspicion between Algeria and Morocco,” al-Sedeki said.
Political analyst Mohamed al-Amrani Boukhabza echoed a similar view.
“It is imperative to change the MINURSO role since previous reports by the UN envoys showed that it is impossible to conduct a referendum [on the region’s fate],” he said.
Boukhabza said the UN mission could play a role in overseeing negotiations aimed at granting autonomy to the region.
He, however, ruled out Morocco’s participation in any unofficial negotiations with the Polisario Front “without setting out a timetable for discussing the proposal on the region’s autonomy”.