UN sets sights on Western Sahara talks in December: diplomats

UN sets sights on Western Sahara talks in December: diplomats
UN efforts to end the decades-old conflict between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front will begin with talks in December, diplomats said on Saturday.
2 min read
29 September, 2018
The Polisario Front fought a guerrilla war against Rabat's forces before a 1991 ceasefire [Getty]

The United Nations has invited Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front to talks in December on ending their decades-old conflict over Western Sahara, diplomats said on Saturday.

UN envoy Horst Koehler, a former president of Germany and ex-director of the International Monetary Fund, has invited the two sides along with Algeria and Mauritania to Geneva for talks on December 5-6.

In letters sent to the four parties, the envoy requested a response by October 20, according to diplomatic sources. 

Morocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have been deadlocked since the last round of UN-sponsored talks in 2008.

Morocco maintains that negotiations on a settlement should focus on its proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara and rejects the Polisario's insistence on an independence referendum.

The Security Council in April approved a US-drafted resolution that urged Morocco and the Polisario to prepare for talks, setting a six-month deadline for action.

A council diplomat, who spoke on background, said the envoy was hoping to send invitations in September to the parties to attend talks - before the deadline expires in October.

A settlement in Western Sahara would allow the UN peacekeeping mission there, known as MINURSO, to end its mission at a time when the United States is seeking to reduce the cost of peace operations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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