UN envoy on Western Sahara continues meetings in North Africa

A MINURSO officer chats with a group of local Western Saharans

21 October 2010 – The top United Nations envoy on the status of Western Sahara is continuing discussions in North Africa ahead of the next round of UN-backed talks to resolve the long-running dispute that dates back to 1976 when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the end of the Spanish colonial regime.

Christopher Ross, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Envoy, today left the Algerian town of Tindouf, his second stop in the region after visiting the capital, Algiers.

Yesterday, he held talks with senior officials of the Frente Polisario, including with its Secretary-General.

Those discussions addressed the need to overcome the status quo, the requiremeMy hope is to see the parties emerge from the current impasse and start intensive and substantive negotiations in the future of Western Saharants of the negotiations and the pace of work in managing confidence-building measures.

The Frente Polisario confirmed its readiness to take part in the next round of talks, slated to be held early next month.

Mr. Ross is now heading to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, and then to Rabat, Morocco, to wrap up preparations for the November talks.

“As with my previous visits, this tour of the region has as a principle goal the clearing of roadblocks on the path to constructive negotiations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente Polisario,” he told reporters after meeting with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers on Monday.

“There is no doubt that the status quo is untenable in the long term, given the costs and dangers that it entails, and the parties must now demonstrate the necessary political will to surmount it. This demands negotiations without pre-conditions and in good faith… to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution which provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”

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.

“My hope is to see the parties emerge from the current impasse and start intensive and substantive negotiations in the future of Western Sahara,” the UN official said.


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