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UN Envoy extends Western Sahara invite to warring parties for talks

Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel (left) and UN envoy to the Western Sahara Horst Kohler meet in Algiers on 22 October 2017. [Abdelkader Messahel /Twitter]
Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel (L) and UN envoy to the Western Sahara Horst Kohler meet in Algiers on 22 October 2017. [Abdelkader Messahel /Twitter]

The UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara has invited the relevant “parties to the conflict” to “separate talks” in Germany, according to reports in Morocco. Horst Kohler initiated the invitation to Morocco, the Polisario front and Mauritania following a ten-day tour of Europe and Africa. Kohler held talks with EU officials in Brussels and AU officials in Addis Ababa to discuss the Western Sahara issue.

The UN opened negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front in 2007. A number of sessions have followed since, but little progress has been made. The last of these negotiations took place in New York in 2012; again there was no positive outcome.

Read: Western Sahara explained

Under Morocco’s autonomy plan, the Sahrawis will have exclusivity in managing local affairs but will only be able to function under Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The plan has been rejected by the Polisario Front and its backer Algeria, which supports full autonomy for Western Sahara independent of Morocco.

Thousands of Sahrawis have lived in refugee camps along the south-west border of Algeria since the 1970s. The conflict between Polisario militias and Morocco continues to decimate the region despite a ceasefire brokered by the UN in 1991.

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