After direct talks between Morocco and independence movement Polisario Front resumed in early Dec for first time in six years, second round planned for March offers opportunity to advance negotiations over status of Western Sahara. UN envoy for Western Sahara Horst Köhler mid-Feb said he planned to convene second round of talks in March. European Parliament 12 Feb voted in favour of new fisheries partnership between EU and Morocco that Polisario Front, European Court of Justice, European MPs and NGOs have criticised for including waters off Western Sahara.
The Western Sahara conflict is both one of the world’s oldest and one of its most neglected.
The combination of Morocco’s recent proposal of a “Sahara autonomous region”, the Polisario Front’s counter-proposal of independence with guarantees for Moroccan interests and the UN Security Council’s 30 April resolution calling for direct negotiations between the parties – due to begin on 18 June – has been hailed as a promising breakthrough in the protracted Western Sahara dispute.
Refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, have long been run by the Polisario movement, which seeks an independent state in Western Sahara, also claimed by Morocco. But a new generation of Sahrawi refugees is growing fractious as aid dwindles and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver a settlement.
Originally published in Al Hayat
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal Europe