UN refugee chief urges end to impasse over Saharawi activist

According to media reports, Aminatou Haidar began her strike at the airport at Lanzarote, on Spain’s Canary Islands, after Moroccan authorities denied her entry into her native Western Sahara, whose status has been the subject of a long-running dispute.UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, on the basis of his agency’s good offices and on strictly humanitarian grounds, called today on Spain and Morocco “to consider any measure that could facilitate [the] movement and end the current impasse” of Ms. Haidar, who is from the town of Laayoune.Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after Spain’s colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. The UN mission there, known as MINURSO, is tasked with monitoring the ceasefire reached in September 1991 and organizing a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy, while the Frente Polisario’s position is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the tensions between the parties to the talks on Western Sahara, which have risen after the recent detention of several groups of Saharawi activists.“The Secretary-General has urged both parties to continue to cooperate with his Personal Envoy, Mr. Christopher Ross, in seeking to schedule another set of talks and to work together to achieve progress toward a mutually agreed political solution,” his spokesperson told reporters. 4 December 2009The United Nations refugee chief today appealed to Spain and Morocco to consider any measure to pave the way for the movement of a Saharawi activist who started a hunger strike last month and whose condition is rapidly deteriorating. read more