The political dispute between Algeria and Morocco continues to fester after one-day secret talks between the sides collapsed in Geneva.
The goal of this last week meeting mediated by the U.S. and France was to work toward resolving the main thorn in the relationship of these neighbors: the disputed Sahara region, Al Yaum daily reports.
But one day after the talks began, the daily reports, officials in Algiers ordered their delegation to leave the meetings. This order may have come directly from President Abd al Aziz Boutaflika (shown in picture).
Other issue besides the Sahara that was discussed included, Morocco's demand to strengthen control on the joint border to diminish smuggling of illegal items, such as drugs and weapons.
Nevertheless the most contentious issue between the two countries is the Sahara. Morocco claims sovereignty of this former Spanish colony, while Algeria backs the Polisario members who are seeking independence. In early November 1999, the new Moroccan king publicly offered proposals for ending the dispute, including holding elections for a royal advisory council in the disputed territory. He also affirmed the Kingdom's commitment to a UN-sponsored peace plan, in which a referendum will be held to determine the region's future. His main condition was that all potential voters must be able to participate. Differing views regarding voter eligibility have already caused long delays in the referendum, now scheduled for July 2000.
Expectedly, the Sahara issue prevented real progress in Geneva talks. The most problematic point was the future of Polisario arms. While Morocco claims that these arms will be collected and confiscated, Algeria rejected this demand and asked to implement the pattern that was used in 1982 in Lebanon when the PLO fighters left for Tunisia armed.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)