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Western Sahara: heated debate at UN between Morocco and Algeria over territory

September 27, 2023 at 9:55 am

Moroccos Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale on 16 September, 2016 [RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP via Getty Images]

A heated debate took place in the UN General Assembly on Tuesday between the Moroccan and Algerian ambassadors over the Western Sahara issue, which the international organisation considers to be a “non-self-governing territory”.

After Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale delivered his country’s speech during the debate in the General Assembly, Algerian Ambassador Amar Bendjama requested the right to reply. He accused his Moroccan counterpart of “distorting” the words of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who affirmed in his speech from the same podium last week his support for his country to organise a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.

“Everyone has their camp. We Algerians have chosen the camp of justice, decolonisation, freedom, self-determination and human rights. This commitment applies to the cause of the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for nearly half a century for the UN to do them justice,” explained Bendjama. “If the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara had really turned it into a paradise, with or without the granting of autonomy, why is this referendum being prevented?”

READ: Germany, Morocco stress UN key to Western Sahara solution

The Algerian ambassador refuted “terrorism accusations” related to the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for Western Sahara and is backed by Algeria. “Let no one deceive you, because all the dominant powers have always tried to demonise the resistance and freedom fighters.” In closing, Bendjama also offered his country’s condolences to Morocco for the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck the kingdom three weeks ago.

In turn, Hilale requested the right to respond to what his Algerian counterpart had said. “You can’t shed crocodile tears and at the same time attack a country that is still living through a tragedy,” he told Bendjama. “You express your solidarity and support, but at the same time you spread your poison, insult the dead, and insult the Moroccans.”

The Moroccan ambassador insisted that, “The autonomy initiative within the framework of Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remains the only way to turn the page on this fabricated regional conflict. Morocco exists in its desert and will remain so until the end of time.”