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Algeria calls for direct talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front

Members of the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army parade with Polisario Front's flags in the disputed territory of Western Sahara on 27 February 2016 at the Sahrawi refugee camp of Dakhla which lies 170 km to the southeast of the Algerian city of Tindouf. [FAROUK BATICHE/AFP via Getty Images]
Members of the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army parade with Polisario Front's flags in the disputed territory of Western Sahara on 27 February 2016 [FAROUK BATICHE/AFP via Getty Images]

Algeria yesterday demanded "direct negotiations" be held between Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front) over the disputed Western Sahara region.

In a speech at the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra stressed: "Algeria reiterates its permanent stance on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and calls on the United Nations to assume its legal responsibilities towards the Sahrawi people and to guarantee their inalienable rights."

"Organising a free and fair referendum to enable this proud people to determine their destiny and determine their political future cannot forever remain hostage to the curse of an occupying country that has repeatedly failed to fulfill its international obligations emanating from the relevant Security Council resolutions."

The minister added:" As a neighbour and observer of the political process, Algeria always seeks to be a source of peace, security and stability in the region."

"Algeria supports the decision of the African Peace and Security Council (PSC) to launch direct negotiations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic since the two countries share membership in the African Union."

READ: Algeria may take more steps against Morocco, official says

Morocco has been in conflict with the Algeria-backed separatist Polisario group over the Western Sahara since 1975 after the Spanish occupation ended. It turned into an armed confrontation that lasted until 1991 and ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement.

Rabat insists on its right to govern the region but proposed autonomous rule in the Western Sahara under its sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum to let the people determine the future of the region. Algeria has been supporting the Front's proposal and hosts refugees from the region.

The 1991 ceasefire came to an end last year after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guergarat crossing, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the state of Morocco and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which the Polisario said was a provocation.

By launching the operation, Morocco "seriously undermined not only the ceasefire and related military agreements but also any chances of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the decolonization question of the Western Sahara," Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, said in a letter to the UN.

Relations between Morocco and Algeria have been tense for decades, with Lamamra announcing last month that his country had decided to sever ties with Morocco due to Rabat's "hostile tendencies".

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