Italy president urges UN-brokered W.Sahara settlement

AFP , Saturday 6 Nov 2021

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has called for "due account to be paid to the rights of the Sahrawi people" in an "equitable" and UN-brokered solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

closed Moroccan-Algerian border
Families gather on both sides of the closed Moroccan-Algerian border, near Oujda, Morocco, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. AP

Mattarella's comments, came on a visit Saturday to Algeria, the main backer of Western Sahara's Polisario Front independence movement, which has been locked in an escalating war of words with neighbouring Morocco since US ex-president Donald Trump recognised Rabat's sovereignty over the former Spanish colony late last year.

In an interview with Algeria's El Moudjahid newspaper, Mattarella said Italy had "always strongly supported the role played by the United Nations" in the search for a solution.

The world body has maintained a peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara since 1991, overseeing a now broken ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario, and attempting to organise a self-determination referendum for the territory.

"We support Algeria's role and its commitment to the UN framework on Western Sahara," added Mattarella, whose office is largely ceremonial.

Trump's recognition of Morocco's claim to sovereignty last December broke with years of international consensus that Western Sahara's future should be settled by a UN-supervised referendum.

It has posed a diplomatic headache for European countries with close ties with North Africa, particularly Spain and Italy.

Italy is the largest consumer of Algerian gas, importing more than a third of the North African country's output.

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