News / Africa

US Compromise Paves Way for Extended UN Mission in W. Sahara

Moroccans protest against U.S.-backed plans to broaden the mandate of UN peacekeepers in disputed Western Sahara, Casablanca, April 22, 2013.
Moroccans protest against U.S.-backed plans to broaden the mandate of UN peacekeepers in disputed Western Sahara, Casablanca, April 22, 2013.
Reuters
The United States has dropped demands for human rights observers in Western Sahara, diplomats said on Tuesday, paving the way for a compromise that would allow the U.N. mission in the disputed territory to be extended for another year.
        
Western Sahara, a tract of desert the size of Britain that has lucrative phosphate reserves and potentially offshore oil, is the focus of Africa's longest-running territorial dispute, between Morocco and pro-independence Polisario guerrillas.

A U.S.-drafted resolution that proposed installing United Nations peacekeepers to monitor human rights abuses had angered Morocco, and taken its traditional protector France by surprise.

"There will be a resolution very soon for a new mandate of the MINURSO," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters, referring to the mission's acronym. "We are close to a solution that will satisfy everybody."

Lalliot declined to comment on the details of the resolution, which was due to be voted on April 25. But three Western diplomats said Washington had withdrawn the demand after its resolution was reviewed by a group of countries including the United States, France, Spain, Britain and Russia.

"The Moroccans will be satisfied," said one diplomat.

A U.N. Security Council diplomat said that the draft resolution contained more human rights language than previous years, describing it as a "step forward."

It encourages enhanced efforts and progress on human rights, but does not propose that U.N. peacekeepers monitor them, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The United States' U.N. mission had no immediate comment.

The dispute dates back to 1975 and pits Morocco, which asserts that the region to its south is part of its territory, against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement. Morocco holds about 80 percent of the territory and the Polisario the rest, including refugee camps.

Europe and the United States say their worry is that the conflict is souring relations between Morocco and Algeria and preventing them from working together against Islamist violence.

While allegations of abuse have lessened since a 1975-1991 war, rights groups like Amnesty International accuse Morocco of continuing to use excessive force against demonstrators and activists and repressing political freedom, among other abuses.
        
Morocco and France, its former colonial ruler, have resisted the idea of peacekeepers reporting on rights abuses in Western Sahara, and Paris has long supported Rabat's position due to historical and business relations.

The United Nations brokered a ceasefire settlement in 1991 between Morocco and the Polisario with the understanding that a referendum would be held on the region's fate. But the referendum never took place and attempts to reach a lasting deal have foundered.

A Moroccan official, who confirmed the latest U.N. draft would "encourage human rights", said he expected Algeria and Polisario allies to lobby for changes in the next two days.

A senior Polisario official told Reuters the group was struggling to prevent its youth from taking up arms after seeing years of failed talks and ongoing rights abuses.

"This [compromise] is a big mistake that shows to the Sahrawis that their pacifism isn't leading to anything. It's a shame," said Paris-based Omar Mansour, a member of the Polisario's National Secretariat decision-making body.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the conflict in Mali, where France deployed troops and air power to oust Islamist rebels, threatens to spill into Western Sahara.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Algerian American from: Algiers
April 25, 2013 4:49 AM
Good news that the US envoy has put human rights on the agenda.
But the USA should stick to their guns and not be swayed by the small narco state of Morocco.


Morocco is one of the largest drug producers in the world, and their monarch is nothing but a drug king pin and a murderer. The people of Western Sahara should be allowed to vote for independence in a free and transparent referendum. If not they WILL resort to war. The United States of America should uphold the sacred values of freedom and human rights and never give up.
In Response

by: ex guerrier des sables from: moon
April 26, 2013 12:36 AM
1963!!!!! i think you should read about what s happened to your grand parents in 1963( la guerre des sables),,,,a seconde version of this war will freed algerian people from being slaves to the military. besides ,our hearts are with the free kabily country

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs