Moroccan Delegation Meets UN Envoy for Sahara in Lisbon

A Moroccan delegation, led by Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, met UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the Sahara, Horst Köhler in Lisbon this Tuesday.

The Moroccan delegation comprises Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, President of the Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra region, Sidi Hamdi Ould Errachid, and President of the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region Ynja Khattat.

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry had said in a statement announcing this meeting that Morocco’s participation in the talks at the invitation of Köhler “is part of a continuous cooperation with the United Nations to reach a final political solution to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara.”

Köhler invited the parties to the Sahara conflict after a series of talks with EU officials in Brussels as well as AU officials in Addis Ababa.

The United Nations opened negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario separatists in 2007, after Morocco presented an autonomy plan for the Sahara that the UN Security Council deemed as “serious and credible”. Several negotiation rounds were held since then, with the latest taking place outside of New York in 2012, but no progress was made.

Under the autonomy plan, the Saharan population shall have exclusive powers with regard to managing local affairs within the framework of Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Polisario and its mentor Algeria discard the autonomy option as they continue to stick to obsolete positions reminiscent of the Cold War era leading to the perpetuation of the conflict and the prolonging of the suffering of the Saharan population held in the Polisario-run camps in southwestern Algeria.

Morocco insists that Algeria is the real adversary of its territorial integrity and the perpetuator of the Sahara dispute through its generous military, financial and diplomatic support for the separatist Polisario front.

Algeria continues to fund and support diplomatically and militarily the Polisario militias which it hosts in the region of Tindouf since the 1970s. The Polisario have been using Algerian territories as a rear base for their guerrilla warfare against Morocco until the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement in 1991.

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