TINDOUF, ALGERIA (AFP) – Pro-independence rebels fighting Morocco for Western Sahara said on Saturday the United Nations (UN) was responsible for “political deadlock” over the disputed territory, on the 45th anniversary of their unilateral declaration of independence.
The Algeria-backed Polisario Front controls about a fifth of the vast, arid territory of Western Sahara, and is demanding a promised UN-run referendum on self-determination.
Morocco has offered autonomy but maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom.
“We ask the UN to urgently fulfill its promises: That of ridding Western Sahara of colonisation, in accordance with its Charter and its resolutions,” Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali said in a speech at a refugee camp.
“The Polisario Front tried for 29 years to avoid war by making concessions, but it has faced a total absence of cooperation both from the Moroccan side and the UN,” added senior Polisario official Khatri Addouh, cited by official Sahrawi news agency SPS.
The UN is responsible for the “political deadlock” on the Sahrawi question due to its “laxity” in the face of Morocco, Addouh was quoted as saying from a Sahrawi refugee camp near the Algerian desert town of Tindouf.
The Polisario fought a war of independence with Morocco from 1975 to 1991 and its leaders proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) on February 27, 1976.
The UN has repeatedly failed to find a lasting settlement since it brokered a ceasefire on the line of control in 1991.
UN-led negotiations involving Morocco and the Polisario have been suspended since March 2019.
On Saturday in Tindouf, Polisario armed forces marched in a military parade attended by Sahrawi leaders to mark the anniversary.
Soldiers marched behind a woman draped in a Sahrawi flag, wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus.
Tensions rose sharply in November when Morocco sent troops into a buffer zone to re-open the only road leading from Morocco to Mauritania and the rest of West Africa.