ALGIERS - Algeria on Tuesday branded as unacceptable comments published by official Moroccan media in response to criticism of its human rights policy in Western Sahara, in the latest barbed exchange between Rabat and Algiers.
ALGIERS – Algeria on Tuesday branded as unacceptable comments published by official Moroccan media in response to criticism of its human rights policy in Western Sahara, in the latest barbed exchange between Rabat and Algiers.
The insults by the North African arch-rivals come ahead of a report to be presented to the UN Security Council on Wednesday by special envoy Christopher Ross, who visited the region this month.
In a speech read on his behalf by the justice minister, Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said an international mechanism to monitor human rights in the disputed territory was needed “more than ever.”
Bouteflika referred to what he called “the massive and systematic human rights violations that take place inside the occupied territories to suppress the peaceful struggle” of the Sahrawis for freedom of expression and association.
Morocco’s official MAP news agency had accused Algiers, which backs the pro-independence Polisario Front, of seeking to further “its hegemonic designs in the region”.
It also charged that Algeria was trying “to distract attention from the serious rights abuses which take place daily on its territory.”
On Saturday, the nationalist Istiqlal party that withdrew from Morocco’s coalition government earlier this year called on the authorities “to recover territory in the southeast that Algeria took by force and which notably includes Tindouf” in western Algeria.
Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra hit back at the comments on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference, Lamamra called on Morocco to show restraint, saying “this incident, as well as the outrageously expansionist statement by the leader of a Moroccan political party, are totally unacceptable and irresponsible.”
He said Bouteflika’s comments were “a reminder of Algeria’s well-known position.”
The Algerian president’s call for a mechanism to protect Sahrawi rights follows a US proposal in April, angrily rejected by Morocco and later dropped, to task the UN peacekeeping force in the Western Sahara with a human rights monitoring mandate.