Morocco and the Polisario determined to pursue Sahara talks
By Naoufel Cherkaoui for Magharebia in Rabat – 05/08/08
Despite a series of stalled talks in New York, Morocco remains committed to the process of negotiations with the Polisario, in pursuit of a lasting solution to the dispute over Western Sahara. That was the message conveyed by King Mohammed VI in a royal address last Wednesday (July 30th) in Fez.
"The relentless efforts of our bold diplomacy have resulted in substantial positive development," said the king. "This is evident in the UN resolution endorsing seriously and credibly our dauntless initiative for autonomy and the growing international support of the kingdom's right to have sovereignty over the desert, and the fact that separation is unrealistic."
Reasserting his country's commitment to UN Security Council resolution 1813, Mohammed VI said Morocco is willing "to engage in real negotiations, driven by good intentions... to arrive at a permanent political and reconciliatory solution for this conflict."
Abdelkader Taleb Oumar, a member of the Polisario Front's national secretariat, emphasised last Tuesday in Algeria that his group is committed to completing negotiations with Morocco, but without UN envoy Peter van Walsum.
"We are for negotiations with Morocco," Oumar said, "and the Polisario agreed to go into the fifth round… but without van Walsum, because he is a mediator who is visibly biased towards the Moroccan proposal."
Van Walsum came under fire from the Polisario and Algeria back in April, when he declared Sahrawi independence impossible within the current framework of negotiations.
Oumar said his organisation hopes to take action towards peace before the current MINURSO mandate expires in April 2009.
"Thirty-three years is enough to show the world that the Sahrawi people reject the Moroccan occupation and are committed to their right to self-determination," he continued, also making the claim that the occupation is detrimental to Morocco, as it stifles economic and political development due to the millions of dollars spent in maintaining the campaign.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri said, "The movement has updated its reference and highlighted a political solution through negotiations, now possible thanks to Morocco's proposal of autonomy."
Michele Montas, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, asserted last Wednesday that the Polisario has not taken any official action with the UN requesting a replacement for van Walsum.
Van Walsum's position has not changed, Montas told reporters, and the UN intends to keep him in place in the coming stages. No date has been set, however, for the next round of negotiations.
Meanwhile, Omar Hilale, secretary-general of the Moroccan foreign ministry, told Indonesian newspaper Jakarta Post last Thursday that, in handling the Sahara case, Morocco seeks to follow the example set by Indonesia in signing a peace accord with the Aceh Free Movement, through which the group was granted extensive autonomy in 2005.
"We would grant the same thing to the Saharan people and the Polisario Front," he said.
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