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Fresh round of UN-backed talks on Western Sahara set for next month

7 December 2007 A third round of United Nations-backed negotiations on Western Sahara, bringing together representatives of Morocco and Frente Polisario, will take place early next month, it was announced today.

UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters that the next meeting of the parties is scheduled for 7-9 January in Manhasset, just outside New York City, and the site of the two previous rounds of negotiations in June and August this year. It will be facilitated by Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

Letters of invitation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have been sent to both Morocco and Frente Polisario and to neighbouring countries as well, Ms. Montas added.

The second round of talks in August wrapped up with agreement among the parties that the status quo is unacceptable and the process of negotiations will continue. But in his most recent report on the situation, Mr. Ban said the two sides held mutually exclusive positions that had prevented them from seriously discussing each other’s proposal during the talks.

Morocco holds that its sovereignty over Western Sahara should be recognized, while the Frente Polisario’s position is that the Territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum that includes independence as an option.

The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been in place since September 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario, which contest the territory.

In October, the Security Council extended the mandate of MINURSO through next April and called on the two sides “to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to engage in substantive negotiations.”

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