Morocco rejects the African Union’s decision to appoint a special envoy for the disputed North African territory of Western Sahara, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano was appointed as a special envoy for Western Sahara at a meeting in Equatorial Guinea last week of the African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Council, African news organisations reported.
Morocco has controlled most of Western Sahara since 1975 and claims as its own the sparsely populated stretch of desert, which has offshore fishing, phosphate reserves and oilfield potential.
But the Algeria-backed Polisario Front has long sought independence for the territory, and a United Nations mission was formed more than 20 years ago ahead of an expected referendum on Western Sahara’s political future which has never taken place.
Morocco has left the AU in 1984 after the organization admitted the Polisario-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member.
“The kingdom of Morocco, a fundamental and unavoidable part of this regional conflict, does not feel concerned about that unilateral decision (to name a special envoy),” the foreign office statement, carried by state news agency MAP, said.
“The African Union has no legal basis, no political fundament, nor moral legitimacy to intervene in that issue which is the exclusive domain of the United Nations,” it added.
Morocco accused the AU of taking sides and called on the U.N. Security Council to ignore the decision.
Last April, the Security Council renewed a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara for another year, and urged Morocco and the Polisario to respect human rights, but did not call for the U.N. to monitor abuses as rights groups have advocated.