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New round of UN-brokered talks on Western Sahara get under way

New round of UN-brokered talks on Western Sahara get under way

Special Envoy for Western Sahara Peter van Walsum
As the third round of United Nations-led talks on Western Sahara began today in Manhasset, just outside of New York City, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Envoy urged the parties to negotiate in good faith.

Representatives of the parties – Morocco and the Frente Polisario – as well as the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, are participating in the discussions which are being mediated by UN envoy Peter van Walsum.

Reminding the sides of last October’s Security Council resolution in which the 15-member body urged them to negotiate “without preconditions,” Mr. van Walsum in his opening remarks today appealed to the parties to show the necessary political will to ensure the negotiations’ success.

He also stressed that while the UN will facilitate the discussions in any way possible, the responsibility to reach a solution lies with the parties, according to UN spokesperson Michele Montas.

Today’s agenda includes plenary discussions on the implementation of relevant Council resolutions, and Mr. van Walsum also held bilateral discussions with the parties and with the neighbouring States.

Before wrapping up on Wednesday, this round of discussions is also expected to focus on the way forward in the negotiating process.

Yesterday, Mr. Ban urged the parties to use the opportunity of the current talks to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of discussions.

“The Secretary-General recognizes that it will take both time and patience to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to this longstanding dispute,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

This latest round of talks is taking place at the Greentree Estate, the site of the two previous rounds of negotiations that took place in June and August of 2007.

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.