“We are ready to fully cooperate with UN human rights observers in the territory under our control. The United Nations should take this proposal seriously, and ask Morocco to do likewise,” Kheddad told a news conference, organized by the international consulting office “Independent Diplomat.”

Dubbing it an “important initiative” by Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government, led by the Polisario Front, Kheddad said “the proposal is meant to help in building confidence and giving a fresh impetus to the negotiations undertaken by the UN on the decolonization of Africa’s last colony.”

He also seized this opportunity to remind the UN of its “responsibility to reaffirm its commitment to its principles” and called for the release of the seven Saharawi prisoners on hunger strike.

“Morocco must respect the rights of the Saharawi people. The hunger strikers have committed no crime, they should be released or at least have a fair trial,” he pleaded.

He also affirmed “the failure of Morocco on the agenda of human rights” which “bore, he said, damage to both its credibility as a partner for the European Union in its advanced status, and as a partner for the Sahrawi party in the peace process “.

“The EU and UN have called on Morocco to meet its obligations. As for us, we are ready to commit ourselves to it,” he added.

The former Spanish colony of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since the colonial power left the territory in 1976, leaving most of its inhabitant in Algerian exile. Soon after the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) on February 27, 1976, the occupied state was admitted as a full member to the OAS (now African Union).

The SADR government currently controls about 20% of the territory it claims. It calls the territories under its control the “Liberated Territories” or “Free Zone.” Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls these lands its Southern Provinces. The SADR government considers the Moroccan held territory “Occupied Territory” while Morocco considers the much smaller SADR held territory to be a “Buffer Zone.”

A majority of African states, many Latin American countries and some Asian countries have recognised the SADR. No European country so far has recognised SADR as an independent state.

UN-backed talks on the territory’s future are currently stalled. Morocco offers considerable autonomy to the Sahrawi people. The Polisario Front wants a referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established by Security Council in 1991 in accordance with settlement proposals by Morocco and Polisario. MINURSO was originally mandated to monitor the ceasefire, verify the reduction of Moroccan troops in the Territory, identify and register qualified voters for referendum, etc. While the organisation of the referendum has not been possible to date, other requirements of the mandate have been pursued. Now MINURSO monitors the ceasefire, reduces the threat of mines and UXOs, supports the confidence building measures.

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