Parties to Western Sahara conflict end UN-convened informal talks in New York

Parties to Western Sahara conflict end UN-convened informal talks in New York

Family members of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria board flight in Western Sahara to visit their kinfolk (file photo)
Delegations from Morocco and the Frente Polisario have attended a fourth round of informal talks in New York on ending the conflict in Western Sahara at the invitation of the personal envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General.

The three-day meeting in Long Island, convened by the envoy, Christopher Ross, was also attended delegates from the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania. As was the case in the previous informal talks, the discussions, which ended on Saturday, took place in “an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect,” according to a statement issued by Mr. Ross' office.

The proposals of the two parties were again presented, but by the end of the meeting, each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as a sole basis for future negotiations, the statement added.

Within the framework of the relevant Security Council resolutions on the ongoing negotiations process, the parties engaged in extensive discussions on innovative approaches to create a new dynamic in the negotiating process next year on the basis of regular meetings.

“In this regard, both parties proposed concrete ideas that will be developed at the next two rounds of informal talks to be held from 21 to 22 January and in March 2011.”

The delegations also discussed the programme of Confidence Building Measures set out by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and confirmed the continuation of family visits by air.

As agreed during the third round of informal talks, the four delegations plan to meet with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva in the near future to review the implementation of the “Plan of Action” in full and to advance the implementation of family visits by road.

Mr. Ross called upon the two parties to help create an atmosphere of trust in order to make progress in the negotiations and to avoid anything that could have negative effects on that process.

In its resolution 1871 of 2009, the Security Council called on the parties to continue their dialogue under the auspices of the Secretary-General to achieve “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”

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.