Parties to Western Sahara dispute commit to further UN-backed talks
UN News Center – The parties in the dispute over the status of Western Sahara have wrapped up two days of United Nations-backed talks in upstate New York by reiterating their commitment to continue their negotiations as soon as possible.
“The proposals of the two parties were again presented and discussed. By the end of the meeting, neither party had accepted the proposal of the other as the sole basis of future negotiations,” the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, said in a statement last night.
However, the discussions were held in “an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect,” added Mr. Ross, at whose invitation the delegations from Morocco and the Frente Polisario met.
The discussions that began on 10 February are the second round of informal talks held in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1871.
The resolution called on the parties to continue the dialogue under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions to achieve “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”
Delegations from the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, were also present at the opening and closing sessions and were consulted separately during the discussions.
“The parties reiterated their commitment to continue their negotiations as soon as possible,” stated Mr. Ross, who intends to travel to the region to consult further with the parties and other stakeholders.
Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. 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.
A UN mission, known as MINURSO, has been entrusted with monitoring the ceasefire reached in September 1991 and organizing a referendum on self-determination.
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.