UN holds first talks on Western Sahara conflict in six years

UN headquarters [Photo: Google.com]
UN headquarters [Photo: Google.com]

The UN is relaunching talks on the long-standing dispute over Western Sahara on Wednesday, six years after the last talks between the feuding parties ended without results.

Western Sahara is largely controlled by Morocco but also claimed by the Polisario Front movement, which seeks to hold an independence referendum.

Morocco has pushed instead for a form of autonomy for the region under its sovereignty.

The two-day UN talks in Geneva are brokered by former German President, Horst Koehler, who serves as the UN envoy for Western Sahara.

Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, and Kathri Addouh, a member of Polisario’s National Secretariat, are expected to “discuss the next steps in the political process,” rather than enter into negotiations, according to a UN spokesman.

The conflict has had repercussions in the wider region, and the foreign ministers of neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania are also attending the talks.

Algeria backs the Polisario Front, a stance which has soured relations with Morocco.

The dispute over Western Sahara began in 1975, when the region was invaded by neighbouring Morocco and Mauritania after the withdrawal of colonial power Spain.


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Mauritania later withdrew and recognised Polisario’s self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

The SADR also won recognition from a number of mostly African countries.

Polisario fighters, largely based in Algeria, where much of the territory’s population took refuge, fought a guerrilla war until 1991, when they entered a UN peace process. (dpa/NAN)

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