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November 10, 10

NEWS / Parties to UN-backed Western Sahara talks agree to meet again next month

10 November 2010 – The third round of United Nations-backed informal talks on the dispute over Western Sahara has ended with Morocco and the Frente Polisario agreeing to continue their discussions next month and again early next year.

The UN has been involved in efforts towards 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.

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.

According to a communiqué issued last night at the end of the talks, which took place outside New York City at the invitation of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, the parties engaged in “broad and frank” discussions of each other’s proposals.

This is despite the fact that “each party continues to reject the proposal of the other as a basis for future negotiations,” stated the communiqué.

“To create an environment propitious for progress, the parties have started to build a new dynamic for the next steps of the negotiating process,” it added.

The communiqué also noted that, for the first time, the delegations of the two parties and the two neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, together discussed the programme of Confidence Building Measures set out by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Among the elements of the programme, which was launched in 2004, are flights aimed at connecting Sahrawi refugees living in camps in Algeria’s Tindouf region with their relatives in the territory of Western Sahara.

The parties agreed to resume family visits by air without delay and accelerate the inauguration of family visits by road. The four delegations plan to meet with the UNHCR to further discuss these issues.

It was decided at the end of the talks, which began on Monday amid clashes on the ground between Moroccan security forces and Sahrawi protesters which reportedly resulted in a number of deaths and injuries, that the parties will continue their discussions again in December as well as early next year.




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