UN envoy to hold fresh round of talks with all parties in Western Sahara dispute

Alvaro de Soto

3 September 2004 – Over the next 10 days the senior United Nations envoy for Western Sahara will conduct his first round of formal talks with Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO about the disputed territory since his duties expanded three months ago.

Alvaro de Soto, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Western Sahara, will hold consultations with Morocco's King Mohammed VI and senior Government officials during a two-day visit to Rabat starting on Monday.

Mr. de Soto will then meet the leadership of the Frente POLISARIO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro) on 12 September.

UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters today that Mr. de Soto is also in contact with the neighbouring countries of Algeria and Mauritania about when he can hold talks with their government officials.

In June Mr. de Soto's responsibilities grew after the resignation of James A. Baker III, the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, known by its French acronym MINURSO, has been in place since April 1991, when it was installed after years of fighting between Morocco and Frente POLISARIO following Spain's withdrawal from the territory in 1976.

MINURSO's mandate is due to expire at the end of October, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to report to the Security Council on the mission's progress that month.

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