Humanitarian News, 10 March 2011 - Representatives of the parties to the Western Sahara dispute, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, today wrapped up another round of talks, during which both sides continued to reject each other's proposal as a sole basis for future negotiations, United Nations envoy Christopher Ross said.
"The proposals of the two parties were again presented," said a communiqué read by Mr. Ross, the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara at the end of the two-day meeting, held in Malta. "By the end of the meeting, each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as a sole basis for future negotiations," it added.
Delegations from the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, also attended the sixth round of informal meeting on Western Sahara at the invitation of Mr. Ross.
The two sides confirmed their willingness to explore innovative approaches for negotiation and topics for discussion in order to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution of the Western Sahara conflict, giving the people of the territory the right to self-determination, according to the communiqué.
The next round of the informal meeting could take place in May, as the both parties continue to deepen discussion on the two proposals, the communiqué added.
"The two parties decided to tackle, on the one hand, a number of innovative approaches, including measures of conciliation and the avoidance of any sort of provocation that could have a negative impact on the negotiating process, and, on the other hand, additional topics for discussion, including natural resources, and demining," according to the communiqué.
On confidence-building measures, both parties and the neighbouring States also discussed the results of their meeting with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last month.
They also reiterated their support for the proper implementation of the 2004 Plan of Action on confidence-building measures, as well as for UNHCR's technical mission to be deployed next month to create favourable conditions for the implementation of family visits by land.
The UN has been involved in efforts to find a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.
Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory's final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.
Africa's last colony
Since 1975, three quarters of the Western Sahara territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco. The original population lives divided between those suffering human rights abuses under the Moroccan occupation and those living in exile in Algerian refugee camps. For more than 40 years, the Saharawi await the fulfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.