Morocco’s king said he will offer no more than autonomy for the disputed Western Sahara, a few days after United Nations chief called for “true negotiations” to end the four-decade deadlock over the region.
Morocco has controlled most of Western Sahara since 1975 and claims the sparsely populated stretch of desert, which has offshore fishing, phosphate reserves and oilfield potential, as its own territory.
However, the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks independence and a United Nations mission was formed more than 20 years ago ahead of an expected referendum on Western Sahara’s political future which has never taken place.
UN special envoy to Western Sahara Christopher Ross has intensified visits to the region and Europe recently to facilitate negotiations without preconditions and in good faith, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement last week.
“This initiative is the maximum Morocco can offer,” Morocco’s King Mohamed said, referring to the autonomy plan for the region. “Its implementation depends on reaching a final political agreement under the backing of the United Nations.”
The king was speaking late on Friday in a televised speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Green March day, when thousands of Moroccans marched on Western Sahara.
“Morocco refuses any adventure with an uncertain result and that could be potentially dangerous,” he said.