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Morocco: Talks on Western Sahara to Resume

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Morocco, Western Sahara, International Relations, Politics

The dispute over the Western Sahara [1] is a complex one–Morocco claims it as their own, while the Saharan independence movement (the Polisario), backed by Algeria, desires independence. Three years ago, talks resumed between the Polisario and Morocco, but after four rounds of formal negotiations, a conclusion still had not been reached. Morocco's current proposal is autonomy, but the Polisario demands a referendum on the territory's future, including an option for independence.

The latest news [2] is that talks are set to resume on February 10, informally, in upstate New York. Bloggers are weighing in with their thoughts on what the future might hold for the region. Maghreb Blog, whose author is based in the U.S., gives a bit of background to the conflict, and offers this opinion [3]:

If the plan is not to their liking, which is obviously the case, then it is incumbent upon Algeria and the Polisario to step up to the plate and propose a non-obstructionist, realistic alternative. The blind rejectionism of anything Moroccan will only lead to maintaining the current status-quo largely in favor of Morocco at this point. Any meaningful compromise between Morocco and Algeria is beneficial, not only to the two countries, but also to the other three countries in the Maghreb region, as it could be a tremendous step towards full economic and political integration.

Commenter Chasli expresses disagreement with the blogger's assessment, saying:

You and clearly Rabat are in total denial that the Polisario has already offered a plan. Shortly before Morocco officially came forward with their autonomy plan the Polisario presented a plan that called for a referendum that, as far as I can tell, could include just about anything as long as it included independence as an option. And if the inhabitants voted for independence the Polisario pledged to allow the illegal Morrocan colonists to remain and to institute a special relationship with Morocco. This is I feel a very impressive compromise that deals with a number of Rabat's concerns; however, because Rabat flatly refuses to discuss the UN-mandated referendum on self-determination they have totally ignored the Polisario plan.

The debate continues throughout the comments section.  Blogger Analitikis also takes on the subject in a recent post; discussing a recently-issued UN statement, the blogger writes [4]:

Reading the statement and subsequent euphoria on the seeming acceptance of the parties to engage in yet another round of “talks”, one would think that a resolution to the Western Sahara conflict is within reach; that all it takes is a Security Council’s resolution, a Secretary General’s report, a Special Representative’s statement, and a parties half-hearted acceptance for a 35-year-long intractable conflict to be resolved. Little attention is paid to the process, to the parties’ readiness, and to the contextual conditions that may signal the opposite. As far as I know, neither the parties nor the UN (I use the term loosely here) are ready for any kind of serious and honest engagement that would put an end to the conflict of attrition known as the Western Sahara conflict.