Rabat (AFP) – Morocco on Tuesday rejected an explanation from the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that a row over disputed Western Sahara was because of a “misunderstanding”.
Ban infuriated Morocco this month when he referred to the “occupation” of Western Sahara, a disputed territory, during his visit to a refugee camp in neighbouring Algeria.
“We regret the misunderstandings and consequences that this personal expression of solicitude provoked,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.
“His use of the word was not planned, nor was it deliberate, it was a spontaneous, personal reaction.”
Morocco again lashed out at the UN chief on Tuesday, however, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying his “unacceptable” words were of “unprecedented gravity” and “neither justifiable nor erasable”.
“The situation… cannot be reduced to a simple misunderstanding,” said the spokesman, quoted by the MAP state news agency
But he reiterated that Morocco was ready to engage in “responsible, comprehensive and constructive dialogue”.
Ban declined to respond to the remarks at a news conference in Tunis on Tuesday.
“My spokesperson yesterday explained in length… I’m not going to repeat. Because every single word is now being analysed and watched,” said the UN chief.
Morocco considers Western Sahara, the former Spanish territory which it annexed in 1975, as an integral part of the country, proposing self-government for the region under its sovereignty.
In retaliation for Ban’s remark, Morocco expelled most of the civilian experts attached to the UN mission in Western Sahara and closed a military liaison office