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UN-led talks on Western Sahara get under way

18 June 2007 Talks carried out under United Nations auspices on Western Sahara began today outside of New York, with the participation of representatives of the parties – Morocco and the Frente Polisario – along with neighbours Algeria and Mauritania, a spokesperson for the world body announced.

The talks, held at the invitation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, are being facilitated by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.

Addressing the opening session on behalf of Mr. Ban, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe that said today marked the beginning of a new phase in the search for a solution on Western Sahara.

He urged the parties to proceed in good faith and to establish an atmosphere of mutual trust, and expressed the UN’s firm commitment to assist in the negotiations, Ms Montas said.

Mr. Pascoe stressed that the stalemate is becoming “intolerable” and that the dispute over Western Sahara must be brought to a conclusion through “a mutually agreed solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,” she added.

The spokesperson quoted the political affairs chief as underscoring the importance of the meetings. “The Secretary General, the Security Council, and indeed the entire international community are deeply interested in events unfolding here today. The time has come for a solution. We wish you the best of luck, and reiterate our commitment to assist this process in every way possible.”

The invitations to this month's talks follow a request from the Security Council in its latest resolution on Western Sahara, adopted in late April, that Morocco and the Polisario Front enter into negotiations without preconditions. The Secretary-General will report to the Council by 30 June with regard to the status and progress of negotiations.

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