UN pessimistic over resolution to W. Sahara dispute: report

20th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN is doubtful that a settlement can be reached on the Western Sahara and wants Madrid, Paris or Washington to intervene with Morocco and the Polisario, a Spanish newspaper said Friday.

The Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony that was annexed by Morocco in 1975. The Algerian-backed Polisario Front is demanding independence for the region.

The UN special envoy to the region, Christopher Ross, said in a letter obtained by El Pais that neither Rabat nor the Polisario "possess the political will to enter into genuine negotiations on the future of the Western Sahara or to give priority attention to confidence-building measures".

The letter was sent to the five members of the so-called Group of Friends that is trying to resolve the conflict -- Britain, France, Russia, Spain and the United States.

"The Secretary General and I cannot by ourselves convince the parties to abandon their unyielding attachment to mutually exclusive positions. We need specific support from both the Security Council and the Group of Friends."

El Pais, quoting a source close to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said Ross was "appealing for help to Paris, Madrid and Washington," the three governments most interested in finding a solution to the dispute.

Morocco's 1975 annexation of the territory sparked a war between its forces and the Polisario guerrillas. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in 1991 but the UN-sponsored talks on Western Sahara's future have since made no headway.

Rabat has pledged to grant Western Sahara widespread autonomy but rules out independence.

The Polisario Front, with the support of Algiers, wants a referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

"In the long-term, the status quo is unacceptable," Ross said.

"The risk of a drift toward extremism or criminal activities among Sahrawi youth is growing. The danger that a military or paramilitary adventure could escalate into hostilities increases the longer diplomacy fails to produce progress."

© 2010 AFP

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