Britain Betrays Saharawi Refugees To Appease King

Britain, as current chair of the Security Council, is backing a controversial resolution aimed at appeasing the Moroccan regime over the Western Sahara conflict, it has emerged.

The resolution, presented by the US and backed by Britain and France, calls on the UN to focus on the so-called "Framework Proposal", which makes the Western Sahara a province of Morocco, rather than trying to make progress on implementing the existing peace plan. The peace plan has been stalled as - according to Kofi Annan - Morocco is "unwilling" to continue with it, despite having signed up to it. Morocco currently occupies much of the Western Sahara and is paying US and French companies to prospect there for offshore oil reserves.

While the resolution mentions "self-determination", Britain is muddying the waters as to what this means. However, international law on this was established by the 1975 International Court of Justice ruling. It called for a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people who then inhabited the territory. This was swiftly followed by a Moroccan invasion, bringing hundreds of thousands of settlers. James Baker's Framework Proposal of last year sought to appease Morocco by allowing these settlers to participate in a vote on the future of the territory, instead of holding the long-delayed referendum for the Saharawi. Privately, other diplomats fear that this resolution is another attempt to destroy the UN's own Settlement Plan and hand the Western Sahara over to the King of Morocco and his generals.

"If they want self-determination, let us work on the referendum" said the Polisario Front's representative to the UN, Ahmed Boukhari.

The Security Council is due to make a decision on the Western Sahara peace process on Friday, as the mandate for its mission to the territory, MINURSO, expires on Wednesday 31st July. The Council has twice postponed making a decision on how to progress the peace process this year, due to deep differences between its members over the issue. While France's strong links with the Moroccan regime are well known, European powers' attitudes towards Moroccan territorial ambitions may have hardened following the "Parsley Island" fiasco.

"Appeasing Morocco in the Western Sahara will not promote peace and stability in the region, far less justice, legality and an end to Moroccan human rights abuses in the occupied territories," said Western Sahara Campaign co-ordinator Tim Braunholtz. "Only a free and fair referendum in which the Saharawi people can decide on their future can do that. Anything else is time-wasting - which allows Morocco to continue its illegal occupation."

For further details and background please contact Tim Braunholtz on (0113) 245 4786 or wsc@gn.apc.org

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