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Morocco, indigenous Saharawi people in dispute over region

Reporter: Lorna Shaddick 丨 CCTV.com

10-19-2016 21:19 BJT

The head of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara -- or MINURSO -- and the UN Secretary-General's envoy to the region have given a briefing to the UN Security Council. The former Spanish colony is the subject of a territorial dispute between Morocco and the indigenous Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front, which is seeking independence.

Following a closed-door meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, there was no official media statement. The French ambassador merely told reporters there had been 'good spirit' around the table.

The U.N.'s mission to Western Sahara, or MINURSO, had most of its civilian staff expelled by Morocco in March, after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon referred to the disputed region as an "occupation." But its mandate was renewed for a year a month later. So Kim Bolduc, the head of MINURSO, is likely updating council members on the efforts to get MINURSO back up and running.

When the Security Council mandate was extended, the same resolution called on all the parties to continue talks without preconditions and work towards self-determination. Ban Ki-moon's envoy Christopher Ross has been trying to organize a fifth round of negotiations. But after this week's meeting, the Uruguayan ambassador said progress is slow, and there is no referendum on the horizon.

The members are also likely to have discussed the situation in the south of the territory, where Morocco's trying to build a road - which the Polisario Front says violates 1991's ceasefire agreement. MINURSO has been conducting patrols there.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous told the council last monththat its lack of guidance on Western Sahara has undermined its credibility. Some members including Angola, Uruguay and the UK urged members to agree on some public statements but the U.S. advocated a quieter approach, and there was no outcome - and it seems a similar tone prevailed this time round, too.

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