ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Western Sahara's top diplomat on Tuesday called on African countries to sanction Morocco after it failed to attend an African Union meeting on the disputed territory.
The call for sanctions comes less than two months after Morocco rejoined the AU, which it left decades ago because the continental body in 1984 recognized Western Sahara as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Morocco claims the territory as its "southern provinces."
Western Sahara Foreign Minister Mohamed Salem Ouldsalek said Monday's meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council was the first test of Morocco's admission to the continental body, of which Western Sahara is also a member.
"Morocco has boycotted the meeting that was scheduled to discuss issues related between the two countries. The African Union now must take steps by imposing sanctions against Morocco," the foreign minister said.
A letter from Morocco to the AU ahead of Monday's meeting, obtained by The Associated Press, says the question of Western Sahara is in the hands of the U.N. Security Council instead. "The organs of the African Union are invited to support this process in line with the United Nations' mandate."
A United Nations resolution for decades has called for a referendum to decide the territory's fate.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front independence movement, which wants a referendum on the mineral-rich region's future.
Western Sahara's foreign minister on Tuesday called the territory the last "colonization" case on the African continent.