UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Western Sahara later this year where the United Nations is seeking to end a 40-year conflict with Morocco, his spokesman said Monday.
Ban, who steps down at the end of the year, had hoped to travel to the main city of Laayoune in Western Sahara and visit Rabat during his north Africa tour later this week, but no date was agreed with Morocco.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban’s trip would now be conducted in two stages.
This week, he will meet refugees from Western Sahara at the Tindouf camp in western Algeria and hold talks with leaders of the Polisario Front, fighting for an independent homeland.
“There will be a second part where the secretary general will later this year travel to Rabat and Laayoune,” added Dujarric.
The United Nations has been trying to broker a settlement for Western Sahara since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war that broke out when Morocco sent its forces to the former Spanish territory in 1975.
Local Sahrawi people are campaigning for the right to self-determination, but Morocco considers the territory as a part of the kingdom and insists that its sovereignty cannot be challenged.
A UN mission, MINURSO, is based in Laayoune where previous UN chiefs Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali have visited during their mandates.