The UN response came after Moroccan media criticized the UN peacekeeping mission for attending the Polisario Congress in an unauthorized zone.
Rabat – The United Nations has issued an official statement to affirm its position on the Western Sahara conflict after two officials from the UN peacekeeping mission, also known as MINURSO, were seen attending a Polisario congress in an unauthorized zone.
Last week, a photo described as provocative by Moroccan media went viral on social media, showing MINURSO blue helmets attending the 15th Polisario congress in the highly sensitive region of Tifariti, claimed as a “liberated zone” by the breakaway movement. The self-proclaimed SADR holds a congress annually.
In response, Moroccan media strongly condemned the action and the attendance of MINURSO, which has a mission to maintain neutrality in the conflict and monitor the ceasefire agreement and the confinement of Polisario troops to designated areas.
Following the backlash, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that MINURSO officials were in the region as “part of their routine monitoring of developments in the Territory.”
Dujarric added that the MINURSO members are part of the UN military observer team in Tifariti, and they “decided to visit the site of the congress.”
The UN spokesperson then reassured Morocco that both the blue helmets left “shortly” after the ceremony began and “returned to their team site.”
Dujarric also argued that the “brief” presence of the two MINURSO members does “not imply any political position on the part of the observers or MINURSO, which remains strictly impartial in the fulfillment of its mandate.”
“That’s it,” he concluded.
The UN considers Polisario’s administrative buildings in Tifariti to be a violation of the ceasefire and related resolutions.
The UN Secretary-General recently published his report on the situation before the Security Council’s vote on MINURSO’s mandate in October, in which Secretary-General Antonio Guterres informed the Security Council of Polisario’s violations.
Guterres said that Polisario failed to “comply with requests by MINURSO” to resolve some violations.
He also warned that Polisario representatives have not been responsive to warnings to remove buildings “recently constructed by Frente Polisario in various locations outside the restricted area.”
Despite warnings, the Polisario Front held a “national” conference in Tifariti on December 15 in preparation for the congress.
During the first meeting, Polisario leader Ibrahim Ghali threatened the UN and accused the Security Council of lack of “responsibility.”
In the speech, Ghali said Polisario “cannot continue dealing with the United Nations endeavor unless the Security Council bears its responsibility.”