Zapatero in talks over future of Western Sahara

26th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 November 2004, MADRID- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero held "constructive and cordial" talks with Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz on the future of Western Sahara.

26 November 2004

MADRID- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero held "constructive and cordial" talks with Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz on the future of Western Sahara.

Abdelaziz said both men had agreed to keep in "permanent contact" on the issue with Madrid agreeing to "facilitate" contacts between Polisario and Rabat as the United Nations strives to reach a deal on Western Sahara.

Two weeks ago, Abdelaziz, whose movement is seeking independence for the desert territory which was annexed by Morocco in 1975 when it gained independence from Spain, accused Madrid of having an "ambiguous" position, saying Zapatero's administration had "fluctuated" in its diplomacy.

But Abdelaziz said on Friday he had made his position clear in his first meeting with the Spanish leader, who took office in April.

"I insisted to Zapatero that the Spanish government engage itself very effectively in efforts to reach a durable peace deal for Western Sahara based on the right to self-determination."

Traditionally, Madrid has backed Polisario but recent pronouncements appeared to suggest a rapprochement with Morocco on what should happen to the territory.

By contrast, Morocco's neighbour Algeria has backed Polisario's independence claim.

Rabat rejects the UN's Baker Plan for the territory. Under the plan, named after its architect, former US secretary of state James Baker, one-time UN special envoy to the Western Sahara, the territory would be given autonomy over a five-year transition period leading to a referendum on self-determination.

Morocco opposes the Baker plan, fearing that its sovereignty, which it regards as "non-negotiable," would be jeopardised. Rabat has instead proposed "widespread definitive autonomy."

According to Trinidad Jimenez, international affairs secretary for Zapatero's Socialist Party, "Spain does not have a unique solution. We do not hold the key to the problem."

Instead, however, Spain could "facilitate" progress on the issue between Morocco and Polisario, backing UN efforts to achieve a settlement.

Jimenez said Abdelaziz's attitude Friday had been "very constructive" and had not sought to impose conditions.
  
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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