Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs

I was deeply concerned by the decision of President Trump in 2020 to unilaterally recognise Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara. I agree that the UK should not follow this approach and that the UK Government should stand firm and recognise the rights of the people of Western Sahara to determine their own future.

As you know, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was originally established by UN Security Council resolution in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, and to implement a referendum to determine Western Sahara’s final status. I recognise that no such referendum has yet taken place.

MINURSO’s mandate was most recently extended to 31 October 2021 by UN Security Council resolution 2548. The resolution requested that the UN Secretary-General report regularly to the UN Security Council on the status and progress of negotiations and challenges to MINURSO’s operations. The UN Secretary-General will publish a new report on the situation in Western Sahara ahead of the UN Security Council’s decision on renewal of MINURSO in October 2021.

More widely, I know that the role of the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy for Western Sahara was vacant for a prolonged period from May 2019. On 6 October 2021, it was announced that Staffan de Mistura had been appointed to this role.

I am aware of recent ceasefire violations, including the Moroccan authorities’ dismantling of a camp established by Sahrawi protesters. Both parties should avoid further escalation, return to the 1991 ceasefire agreement, and re-engage with the UN-led political process.

I welcome that the UK Government has said its position in relation to Western Sahara remains unchanged and that it continues to regard the status of Western Sahara as undetermined.

Unfortunately because of parliamentary convention I am restricted from signing any EDMs due to my position as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

However, I will continue to follow the situation in Western Sahara and encourage the UK Government to support UN efforts towards a lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

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