Parties to Western Sahara conflict conclude informal talks in New York

UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) at work in Western Sahara

22 July 2011 – The parties to the Western Sahara dispute, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, have concluded another round of United Nations-backed informal talks in New York during which they continued to deepen their discussions on the issue of the electoral corps and mechanisms for self-determination.

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.

“In order to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara […] the parties continued to deepen their discussions on the two proposals, including the issue of the electoral corps, mechanisms for self-determination, and the forms of guarantees,” said a statement issued by the office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, following the meeting on 19-21 July.

“By the end of the meeting, each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as the sole basis for future negotiations, while reiterating their willingness to work together to reach a political solution in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.”

Delegations from the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, were also present at the opening and closing sessions, and during the discussion of the confidence-building measures, according to the statement.

Discussions took place in an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect, it added. Both parties explored the means of including respected representatives from a wide cross-section of the population of Western Sahara in the negotiating process. They also began discussing themes associated with governance, such as education, environment and health, without prejudice to the final status of the territory.

The parties took note of the report of the latest technical mission of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), and began a preliminary discussion on the theme of natural resources, in the framework of discussion proposed by the UN.

On confidence-building measures, the parties and the neighbouring States reiterated their support for the proper implementation of the 2004 plan of action and for family visits by road. They also confirmed their intention to participate in the seminar to be organised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Madeira, Portugal in September, and in the next evaluation meeting with UNHCR in Geneva in October.


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