UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s first ever trip to Western Sahara has sparked a furious reaction from the Moroccan government, which has taken the extraordinary step of ordering the withdrawal of much of the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara. It has also threatened to pull troop support from peacekeeping operations around the world. This came just days after members of the Moroccan government had encouraged the country’s citizens to take to the streets of Rabat in protest against Ban Ki-moon. The personal nature of these attacks “astonished” the Secretary-General, who described it as disrespectful towards both himself and the United Nations.
Morocco said on Tuesday that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s description of its annexation of Western Sahara as an “occupation” was not a misunderstanding but a “premeditated act to alter the nature of the dispute”.
The foreign ministry statement came a day after a U.N. spokesman said Ban regretted the “misunderstanding” over his use of the word, which led to Morocco expelling dozens of United Nations staff from its mission in the disputed territory.