No Progress in UN Sponsored Talks on Western Sahara

Published May 15th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

A UN-sponsored meeting in London Sunday aimed at clearing the way for a referendum on the future of the disputed Western Sahara ended without any concrete results, the head of one of the delegations said, quoted by AFP. 

Former US secretary of state James Baker presided over the talks between representatives from Morocco and the Polisario Front, which is seeking independence for Western Sahara from Morocco. 

"We haven't reached any concrete results," said Mahfoud Ali Beiba, head of the Polisario delegation, following five hours of closed-door talks, said AFP. 

He told journalists that the sides had expounded their respective positions but denounced the Moroccan government's "provocative" attitude. No precise questions were raised, he added. 

"We haven't sensed on the Moroccan side a wish to make progress. We were surprised by the return to the provocative language which we thought we had heard the last of," said Ali Beiba. 

"Overall the peace process is making progress, but there remain obstacles to overcome," and require a referendum on autonomy for Western Sahara. 

According to Ali Beiba, Baker -- who was representing UN chief Kofi Annan -- called on the two parties to put forward proposals to resolve the impasse and said another meeting would be held in late June. 

Brahim Mokhtar, Polisario Front representative in London, said Baker who chaired five hours of talks would try again in June, said Reuters  

“The Moroccan delegation is not ready for talks,” Mokhtar told the agency.  

“More pressure is needed from the international community,” he added.  

Baker and the Moroccan delegates left the meeting without comment. 

Besides Morocco and the Polisario Front, Algeria -- which supports the armed rebels -- and Mauritania, in an observing role, attended the London talks. 

Both Morocco and the Polisario Front accepted in 1988 a UN plan for a referendum which would allow voters in the former Spanish colony, annexed by Morocco in 1975, to choose between independence or remaining part of Morocco. 

But the vote has been postponed since 1992 due to disagreement over who should be eligible to participate. 

The UN has established a count of 86,381 voters but Morocco is insisting that some 140,000 others who were deemed ineligible should be accepted. 

Morocco and the Front ended fighting in 1991, since when a ceasefire has been monitered by a team of some 300 UN military observers – (Several Sources) 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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