November 25, 2010 / 3:43 PM / in 7 years

EU lawmakers back UN probe of Western Sahara clash

BRUSSELS, Nov 25 (Reuters) - European lawmakers voted in favour of an independent, United Nations-backed investigation on Thursday into violence in Western Sahara that has left up to 11 people dead in the disputed territory.

Moroccan security forces and pro-independence protestors clashed on Nov. 8 in the former Spanish colony, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Between five and 11 people are reported to have died.

The region has been the centre of a dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement for decades. [ID:nLDE6A70T6]

“The (Members of European Parliament) believe that the United Nations is the most appropriate body to launch an international and independent investigation on the events, deaths and disappearances,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

Some European parliamentarians have warned that the rise of violence could hamper the renewal of a fishing deal in which EU acquires rights to fish in Moroccan and Western Saharan territorial waters. [ID:nN16158039]

The members of parliament took note of the Moroccan parliament’s decision to set up a committee of enquiry, and called on all sides to refrain from further violence.

EU lawmakers called on UN bodies to set up a human rights monitoring mechanism in the territory.

They also asked the European Commission, the EU executive, to increase funding to aid Western Saharan refugees in the territories to get them better access to food and water.

This month’s violence, some of the worst in years, prompted the Polisario Front to seek an independent UN investigation.

It warned that without one, it could reconsider its role in peace talks with Morocco aimed at ending Africa’s longest-running territorial dispute. Click here for a FACTBOX on Western Sahara [ID:nLDE6A40VM] (Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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