UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants the divided Security Council to clarify its stance on the UN dispute with Morocco over Western Sahara, his spokesman said Friday.
The 15-member council discussed the escalating row during a closed-door meeting on Thursday after Rabat ordered drastic cuts to the staff of the UN mission in Western Sahara.
But the council did not urge Morocco to reverse its decision and did not express support for Ban in the dispute sparked by his description of Moroccan rule in Western Sahara as an “occupation.”
“It would have been better if we had received clearer words from the president of the Security Council,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Ban will raise the thorny issue during a lunch meeting on Monday with Security Council ambassadors, his spokesman said, adding that it would be “at the top of the agenda” of the talks.
Morocco has ordered 84 staffers from MINURSO to leave in the coming days, a move the United Nations says will paralyze the mission that was set up in 1991 after a ceasefire was reached in the disputed territory.
During a recent trip to North Africa, Ban angered Rabat when he used the word “occupation” to describe the status of Western Sahara.
Dujarric said the word was not used with a “legal definition” in mind, but that Ban sought to express that he was “moved” by his visit of refugees at the Tindouf camp in Algeria.
The dispute escalated following protests in Rabat at the weekend that the UN chief said were staged by the government and directed against him, with demonstrators carrying banners denouncing Ban’s “lack of neutrality.”
In response, Morocco decided to cut $3 million in funding for the UN mission and expel the MINURSO staff.
Dujarric said an initial three-day deadline for the staff to leave had been extf to leave had been extended and that discussions were continuing on the decision.
“We very much hope that we can salvage this mission,” he said.
The United Nations has been trying to broker a Western Sahara settlement since the 1991 ceasefire ended a war that broke out when Morocco deployed its military in the former Spanish territory in 1975.
Morocco considers the territory as part of the kingdom and insists its sovereignty cannot be challenged.