UN seeks to step up Western Sahara negotiations


The UN Security Council is set to push for more intensive negotiations to settle the decades-old dispute over Western Sahara, at the centre of tensions between Morocco and African countries.

A draft resolution under discussion this week extends the mandate of the MINURSO peace mission for a year and calls for a political solution, diplomats said. But the council will not amend MINURSO's mandate to include human rights monitoring as demanded by the African Union, according to the draft resolution. The draft resolution is due to come up for a vote next Tuesday.

It remains unclear if the measure due to be discussed in meetings with all 15 members later this week will gain support from the three African countries at the council.

The United Nations has been trying to broker a settlement for Western Sahara since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war that broke out when Morocco sent its forces to the former Spanish territory in 1975.

Local Sahrawi people are campaigning for the right to self-determination, but Morocco considers the territory to be part of the kingdom and insists that its sovereignty cannot be challenged.

The African Union, which recognises the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a member, views the dispute as an example of unfinished decolonisation on the continent.

The draft resolution calls on Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front representing the Sahrawi to "enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations" with a view to reaching a political solution.

This solution "will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara," the resolution says, in an apparent reference to demands by the Polisario Front for a referendum on statehood.  (AFP)

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