Western Sahara, a territory on the northwest coast of Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria, was under Spanish control until 1976. Both Morocco and Mauritania affirmed their claim to the territory, a claim opposed by the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO), and fighting ensued. These tensions led to the establishment of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in 1991, in accordance with the settlement plan for a transitional period for the preparation of a referendum, in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. Despite that the ceasefire has generally held since that time, negotiations between the two sides have repeatedly deadlocked, and a referendum has yet to occur.
Western Sahara | MINURSO
How MINURSO Supports U.S. Interests
The U.S. has long supported fostering a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution in the Western Sahara. The MINURSO mandate furthers that goal by performing the following tasks.
It is estimated that some 100,000 km² of Western Sahara may be affected by a large number of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). The MINURSO Mine Action Coordination Centre, in partnership with other international NGOs, has been responsible for clearing landmines and explosive remnants of war. They have also assisted in route safety verification and reinforced risk education activities to civilians to prevent potential casualties.
MINURSO provided logistic support to UNHCR-led Confidence Building Measures, with personnel and air and ground assets, and they remain ready to continue supporting UNHCR pending agreement of the two parties on a resumption of the activities. MINURSO has also been involved in providing assistance to irregular migrants, as well as humanitarian help in case of natural disasters.