Friday, May 27, 2011

Western Sahara: UN to host meeting of parties to Western Sahara dispute

UN-led talks on Western Sahara were held in New York, on 8 January 2008 (file)

UN - The seventh round of United Nations-backed informal talks between the parties to the conflict in Western Sahara will be held in New York next month, the world body announced today.

The meeting between the two parties, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, along with the neighbouring States of Algeria and Mauritania, will be held from 5 to 7 June at the Greentree Estate, outside of New York City, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters.

During the talks, convened by Christopher Ross, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, “the parties will, as previously agreed, further deepen their discussion of their respective proposals on a settlement and will also examine possible measures of conciliation and the avoidance of acts of provocation,” Mr. Nesirky said.

“They will also have the opportunity to review the status of confidence-building measures, engage in a preliminary examination of the specific topic of demining, and identify additional innovative approaches and specific topics for future discussion,” he said.

The talks will be the first since the Security Council last month extended for another year the mandate of the UN mission tasked with monitoring a ceasefire and organizing a referendum on self-determination for the people of the territory, known as MINURSO.

It will also be the first meeting since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued his latest report on Western Sahara last month, in which he said that it appeared neither party had taken steps that would suggest a readiness to move to an acceptable compromise.

In his report, Mr. Ban said the Security Council may wish to recommend that the parties find a way to include representatives of a wide cross-section of the population of Western Sahara in the discussion of issues related to final status and the exercise of self-determination, and that the parties further deepen their examination of each other’s proposals and, in particular, seek common ground on the one major point of convergence in their two proposals, namely the need to obtain the approval of the population for any agreement.

He also suggested that the parties devote additional energy to identifying and discussing a wide range of governance issues with a view to meeting the needs of the people of Western Sahara.

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.