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Russia blocks US bill to extend UN mission in Western Sahara

A vehicle of the royal Moroccan armed forces is seen on the Moroccan side of border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat located in the Western Sahara, on November 25, 2020, after the intervention of Moroccan army in the area. - Morocco in early November accused the Polisario Front of blocking the key highway for trade with the rest of Africa, and launched a military operation to reopen it. (Photo by Fadel SENNA / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
A vehicle of the royal Moroccan armed forces is seen on the Moroccan side of border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat located in the Western Sahara, on November 25, 2020, [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

Russia on Wednesday blocked a US bill to extend the mandate of the UN mission to Western Sahara for one more year.

As a result of Moscow's objection, the bill was delayed from Wednesday in the hopes that it would be put forward today, days before the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara "MINURSO" expires on Sunday.

A diplomat confirmed that Moscow "is not satisfied with articles related to the political process" and also Algeria's refusal to resume talks as no breakthrough has been achieved. The UN has appointed a new envoy to the region, Staffan de Mistura, and he is due to re-launch talks on 1 November.

Morocco has been in conflict with the Algeria-backed separatist Polisario group over the Western Sahara since 1975, after the Spanish occupation ended. It turned into an armed confrontation that lasted until 1991 and ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement.

Rabat insists on its right to govern the region, but proposed autonomous rule in the Western Sahara under its sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum to let the people determine the future of the region. Algeria has been supporting the Front's proposal and hosts refugees from the region.

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The 1991 ceasefire came to an end last year after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guergarat crossing, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the state of Morocco and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which the Polisario said was a provocation.

By launching the operation, Morocco "seriously undermined not only the ceasefire and related military agreements but also any chances of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the decolonization question of the Western Sahara," Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, said in a letter to the UN.

Last year the US recognised Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat re-establishing ties with Israel.

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AfricaAlgeriaAsia & AmericasEurope & RussiaInternational OrganisationsMoroccoNewsRussiaUNUS
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