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UN Proposes New Talks on Western Sahara

A military patrol in Western Sahara (File Photo)A military patrol in Western Sahara (File Photo)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for new talks on the decades-old Western Sahara conflict, saying negotiations should address proposals from both Morocco and separatist movement the Polisario Front.

UN efforts have repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the disputed territory, contested since 1975 when the colonial power Spain left, which Polisario says belongs to the Sahrawi people who fought a guerrilla war against Morocco until a 1991 UN-backed ceasefire, Aljazeera reported.

“I intend to propose that the negotiating process be relaunched with a new dynamic and a new spirit,” Guterres said in his report presented for review to the UN Security Council on Monday.

“For progress to be made, the negotiations must be open to both parties’ proposals and ideas. Algeria and Mauritania, as neighboring countries, can and should make important contributions to this process.”

A Moroccan Foreign Ministry source called the UN report more objective in tone than past ones, while a Polisario representative said the Sahrawi movement was ready for talks that were serious and without preconditions.

The UN report said talks must aim for a mutually acceptable political solution over the ultimate status of Western Sahara, including through agreement on “the nature and form of the exercise of self-determination”.

Last year, Morocco clashed with the UN over its MINURSO peacekeeping mission after former UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, visited Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. Rabat kicked out dozens of MINURSO staff from the Western Sahara, saying Ban was biased.

Polisario insists on the referendum with independence as an option and says only Morocco and Polisario should be at the negotiating table.

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