UN-backed talks on Western Sahara dispute begin in New York State

09:19, February 11, 2010      

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The latest round of United Nations-backed talks between the parties in the dispute over the status of Western Sahara kicked off Wednesday in New York State, the United States.

The two days of informal talks over the contested territory, where fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976, have been convened in Armonk in upstate New York, UN officials said here.

Facilitated by the personal envoy of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Christopher Ross, the talks are held within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1871 of April last year, which welcomed the agreement of the parties to hold small, informal talks in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations.

The resolution called upon the parties to continue the dialogue under the auspices of the secretary-general without preconditions to achieve "a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara."

Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory's final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.

The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been entrusted with monitoring the ceasefire reached in September 1991 and organizing a referendum on self-determination.

In a statement issued last week, the secretary-general encouraged the parties to make further progress and urged focused and productive discussions during these informal talks.

Source: Xinhua
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