Morocco king in rare visit to disputed Western Sahara
King Mohammed VI arrived to much fanfare in the city for only his third visit since succession
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has vowed that revenues from the mineral-rich Western Sahara will continue to be invested locally, on a rare visit to the disputed territory.
He was speaking late Friday in the territory’s main city Laayoune, to mark 40 years since hundreds of thousands of Moroccan civilians marched across the border with the then Spanish colony to lay claim to it.
The Green March triggered war with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front which had been campaigning for independence for the territory since 1973 and continues to do so to this day.
King Mohammed, who arrived to much fanfare in the city for only his third visit since he succeeded to the throne in 1999, described the Green March as “a watershed moment in the process of completing the kingdom’s territorial integrity.”
He listed several projects that are due to be implemented to improve infrastructure in the territory, including a desalination plant and industrial zones.
He promised that “revenues from natural resources will continue to be invested in the region, for the benefit of the local populations and in consultation and coordination with them.”
On Saturday night, during a televised ceremony in Laayoune, the king announced a 7.2-billion-euro development plan for the region.
But King Mohammed also renewed his insistence that there could be no compromise on Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
A U.N.-brokered ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario has held since 1991, but U.N. efforts to organize a referendum on the territory’s future have been resisted by Rabat.
Morocco has offered some autonomy but flatly refuses to make any more concessions.
“Those who are waiting for any other concession on Morocco’s part are deceiving themselves. Indeed, Morocco has given all there was to give,” the king said in Laayoune.
The Polisario controls a small part of the desert interior of the Western Sahara but its main base is in Tindouf across the border in Algeria, where tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees also live in desert camps.
The king lashed out at Algiers for not doing more for the refugees.
“The people in Tindouf... continue to suffer from poverty, despair, deprivation and the systematic violation of their basic rights,” he said.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for negotiations in the coming months to finally settle the Western Sahara dispute.
“This conflict must be brought to an end if the people of the region are to meet their shared challenges and achieve their full potential,” Ban said.
He said he had asked his envoy Christopher Ross to intensify efforts to bring Morocco and the Polisario to the negotiating table.
Morocco eyes boycott of Swedish companies over Western SaharaMorocco said it was considering a boycott of Swedish companies because of Sweden’s position on the conflict over Western Sahara North Africa
U.N. urges new push to settle Western Sahara disputeThe United Nations has been trying to broker a settlement for Western Sahara since 1991 Africa
U.N. chief accused of backing down on Western Sahara rightsWestern Sahara has the U.N.’s only peacekeeping force without a mandate to monitor human rights Africa
U.N. chief calls for new push to settle Western SaharaUN chief Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a new push to resolve the conflict over Western Sahara Africa
Thousands protest in Spain over Western SaharaAbout 3,000 protesters marched to the central Plaza de la Provincia behind a banner declaring ‘Sahara Free now!’ World News
Human Rights Watch finds few abuses inside West Sahara campsThe camps in the remote desert region of Tindouf in Algeria hold some 90,000 refugees from the Western Sahara Africa
Morocco rejects African Union’s new special envoy for Western SaharaFormer Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano was appointed as a special envoy for Western Sahara at a meeting in Equatorial Guinea last week Africa
Western Sahara: Polisario defectors join opposition youth groupA number of Polisario Front’s soldiers announced their were joining the Youth Movement for Change Africa
Kerry in Morocco for security talksKerry's visit takes place less than a month before the U.N. Security Council's annual vote on renewing the mandate of peace keepers Western Sahara Africa
Morocco’s autonomy plan for W. Sahara ‘serious, credible,’ U.S. saysMorocco offered autonomy for Western Sahara, but the Polisario Front demands secession News