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New round of UN-led talks on Western Sahara to start next week

New round of UN-led talks on Western Sahara to start next week

The United Nations will lead a third round of talks on Western Sahara, bringing together representatives from Morocco and the Frente Polisario, next week outside of New York City.

“As was the case with the previous meetings, and due to the sensitivity of the ongoing discussions, the talks will once again be private,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.

The three-day meeting which begins on Monday will take place in Manhasset, Long Island, at the Greentree Estate – the site of the two previous rounds of negotiations that took place in June and August of 2007.

Last month, Ms. Montas announced that the upcoming discussions will be facilitated by Peter van Walsum, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. Letters of invitation were extended to Morocco and the Frente Polisario, as well as to neighbouring countries.

The second round of talks in August ended with agreement among the parties that the status quo is unacceptable and the process of negotiations will continue.

In his October 2007 report on the issue, Mr. Ban said the two sides held mutually exclusive positions that had prevented them from seriously discussing each other’s proposals during the talks.

Morocco holds that its sovereignty over Western Sahara should be recognized, while the Frente Polisario’s position is that the Territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum that includes independence as an option.

The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been in the Territory since September 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario.

Last October, the Security Council extended the mandate of MINURSO through April 2008, calling on the two sides “to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to engage in substantive negotiations.”