UN special envoy for the Western Sahara region Staffan de Mistura is set to visit Morocco and the disputed territory on Saturday as part of a regional tour.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said de Mistura will hold talks with Moroccan officials on advancing the political process in the disputed region.

“It is also his intention to visit Western Sahara in the course of this trip,” the spokesman said during a news briefing.

“During this phase of the engagement, the personal envoy intends to remain guided by the clear precedents set by his predecessors,” he added.

Western Sahara is an area along Africa’s Atlantic coast that has a population of about 600,000 residents, according to UN estimates. It was colonized by Spain in the 19th century and annexed in 1975 by Morocco.

Rabat insists on its right to the Western Sahara region but has proposed a self-rule system under Moroccan sovereignty.

The pro-independence Polisario Front, for its part, demands that a popular referendum be held in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate -- a proposal backed by Algeria.