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Western Sahara

UN rep claims Western Sahara has the law on their side, but not the UN Security Council

Article published on the 2008-08-13 Latest update 2008-08-14 10:54 TU

Soldiers from the United Nations mission for the organization of a referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at Oum Dreyga(File Photo: AFP)

Soldiers from the United Nations mission for the organization of a referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at Oum Dreyga
(File Photo: AFP)

The UN mediator on the Western Sahara Peter van Walsum told the Spanish paper El Pais that the Frente Polisario, the group representing the Sahrawi people will never achieve independence, even though international law in on their side. Part of the problem, according to the Dutch diplomat, is that the UN Security Council "is not ready to exercise its authority under Article VII of the UN Charter, and impose it."

Ian Williams, a senior analyst for Washington DC-based think tank Foreign Policy in Focus, spoke to RFI about the El Pais interview, noting that the more interesting statement was what van Walsum did not say.

"What he actually did was told off Spanish NGOs for what he said was supporting Polisario's 'unreasonable' aims... he wasn't castigating the US, or France or Britain or the UN for not fulfilling international law," said Williams.

"His advice to the Polisario is basically fairly scandalous. It's like telling a rape victim that she should lie back and enjoy it because there is nothing she can do about it," he added.

Van Walsum's declaration comes before the renewal of his mandate on as UN special representative on the Western Sahara later this month.

The Frente Polisario have claimed that van Walsum "is biased in favour of Morocco after a declaration that the independence of Western Sahara is an unrealistic option," according to a report published by Algeria's APS news agency.

Talks between the Frente Polisario and the Kingdom of Morocco have been going on since June 2007 under the auspices of the UN. The fifth round of talks, scheduled for later this month, have been postponed, according to the office of spokesperson for the UN Secretary General.

The former Spanish colony was illegally annexed by neighbouring Morocco in 1975. Fighting between the Frente Polisario and Morocco ensued until both sides agreed to a UN-brokered truce in 1991.