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Geneva Meeting Sets Stage for Direct Talks on Sahara Conflict

Geneva Meeting Sets Stage for Direct Talks on Sahara Conflict

Thursday, 6 December, 2018 - 09:00
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and members of the Moroccan delegation upon their arrival at the headquarters of the negotiations (AFP)
Casablanca - Rabat - Nouakchott - Lahssen Moqana - Latifa Al-Arosni - Al-Sheikh Mohamed
The first session of roundtable discussions between the parties to the Western Sahara region dispute kicked off in Geneva on Wednesday.

The meeting, which was organized and hosted by UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara Horst Koehler, was attended by Algerian, Moroccan and Mauritanian ministries of foreign affairs along with representative for the Algeria-backed Polisario Front that has been calling for the separation of the Saharan provinces from Morocco.

The first session was aimed at breaking the ice, six years after direct talks broke down.

The last round of direct talks dates back to March 2012, when it was held in Manhasset (near New York), and the bickering sides proved unable to compromise over the territory's status and a proposed referendum.

Koehler said Wednesday that the meeting would discuss a three-point agenda: "Regional integration, the current situation, and the next steps in the political process on Western Sahara.”

It also aims to develop a roadmap for future meetings, under Koehler's supervision, to reach a consensual political solution in accordance with a Security Council resolution.

Morocco is participating in this meeting through a delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita. It also includes elected members, who represent citizens of the Sahara provinces, including Hamdi Ould Errachid, President of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS) in Laayoune, in addition to Morocco's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Omar Hilale.

Rabat considers Algeria the main party that it should hold dialogue with given its support for the Polisario Front. However, Algiers considers itself an observer.

Recently, Algerian officials reiterated their support for the Polisario Front and the Sahara region’s self-determination..

But Moroccan officials stressed the country’s adherence to the proposal to grant autonomy to the Sahara provinces under Moroccan sovereignty as a practical solution that enjoys credibility and is acceptable by most major international partners.

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