South Africa has deplored deaths at a camp in Western Saharan following the “heavy-handed” break up of a protest by Moroccan security forces.
“The South African government has learnt with shock about the heavy-handed manner in which the Moroccan security forces broke up a protest at a camp in Laayoune in the occupied territory of the Western Sahara on November 8,” said the International Relations and Cooperation Department in a statement on Friday.
“It is deplorable that, as a result of this incident, lives were lost, particularly those of innocent civilians.”
The department said the deaths were particularly unfortunate in that they came about at the same time that representatives of the Morrocan government were meeting with Polisario Front representatives in a bid to reach a peace deal.
Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975, but the Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
No results yet from talks
The Polisario Front wants a United Nations-organised referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options. Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.
The third round of informal talks between the Polisario Front and Morocco on Western Sahara’s future ended Tuesday near New York with both sides only agreeing to meet again in December.
South Africa called for a “just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”. — Sapa