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Morocco: Talks on Western Sahara to Resume

The dispute over the Western Sahara is a complex one–Morocco claims it as their own, while the Saharan independence movement (the Polisario), backed by Algeria, desires independence. Three years ago, talks resumed between the Polisario and Morocco, but after four rounds of formal negotiations, a conclusion still had not been reached. Morocco's current proposal is autonomy, but the Polisario demands a referendum on the territory's future, including an option for independence.

The latest news is that talks are set to resume on February 10, informally, in upstate New York. Bloggers are weighing in with their thoughts on what the future might hold for the region. Maghreb Blog, whose author is based in the U.S., gives a bit of background to the conflict, and offers this opinion:

If the plan is not to their liking, which is obviously the case, then it is incumbent upon Algeria and the Polisario to step up to the plate and propose a non-obstructionist, realistic alternative. The blind rejectionism of anything Moroccan will only lead to maintaining the current status-quo largely in favor of Morocco at this point. Any meaningful compromise between Morocco and Algeria is beneficial, not only to the two countries, but also to the other three countries in the Maghreb region, as it could be a tremendous step towards full economic and political integration.

Commenter Chasli expresses disagreement with the blogger's assessment, saying:

You and clearly Rabat are in total denial that the Polisario has already offered a plan. Shortly before Morocco officially came forward with their autonomy plan the Polisario presented a plan that called for a referendum that, as far as I can tell, could include just about anything as long as it included independence as an option. And if the inhabitants voted for independence the Polisario pledged to allow the illegal Morrocan colonists to remain and to institute a special relationship with Morocco. This is I feel a very impressive compromise that deals with a number of Rabat's concerns; however, because Rabat flatly refuses to discuss the UN-mandated referendum on self-determination they have totally ignored the Polisario plan.

The debate continues throughout the comments section.  Blogger Analitikis also takes on the subject in a recent post; discussing a recently-issued UN statement, the blogger writes:

Reading the statement and subsequent euphoria on the seeming acceptance of the parties to engage in yet another round of “talks”, one would think that a resolution to the Western Sahara conflict is within reach; that all it takes is a Security Council’s resolution, a Secretary General’s report, a Special Representative’s statement, and a parties half-hearted acceptance for a 35-year-long intractable conflict to be resolved. Little attention is paid to the process, to the parties’ readiness, and to the contextual conditions that may signal the opposite. As far as I know, neither the parties nor the UN (I use the term loosely here) are ready for any kind of serious and honest engagement that would put an end to the conflict of attrition known as the Western Sahara conflict.

  • http://www.corcas.com Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad

    Hi Jillian,

    I hope you are well.

    The problem is very complex and the reality on the ground is far from what you all can imagine. The genesis of the Polisario Front in a context of cold war and the role of Lybia then Algeria to plot the moroccan monarchy are the key issue to this absurd conflict separating the same tribes, the same families and the same people.

    People are living in very bad conditions in Tindouf camps south Algeria. They are not happy to live on such conditions. Some of them are officials working for Polisario Front and Algeria as well. Those people are happy to maintain the status quo because they have been getting rewards from the actual situation. But the majority of them are without voice. They want to return to their homeland freely. I beg you to believe that they don’t care to any state claim. They want to simply recover their dignity and NOW! Separatism and the state claim is the will of Polisario Front leaders and Algeria militaries. The unionist sahraouis are willing to join their families in the Western Sahara region as soon as possible. They all believe that autonomy is the solution where there are no winners or losers. I personally hope that one day I will be able to join the rest of my family living in Tindouf camps south Algeria. Believe me that’s my biggest wish in my life. I pray day and night to make it happen.

    Regards

    Ahmed Salem

  • http://bigbrother.ma Big Brother Maroc

    Dear Ahmed,

    I’m trying to share some of your feelings, but i cant imagine how can we leave far from our own family.

    This situation has to stop and let people leave freely in total respect of what they Are : Humans !

    But Who wants the conflict to be ended ? No One : By this conflict, Algeria and Morocco are spending 3,5% of their GDP in arms and weapons. And every Foreign country is doing a good military business.

    The only country who wants to end this conflict is Morocco.

    May God save our souls and make you live with all your family member in freedom, democracy and Peace.

  • http://www.corcas.com Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad

    Thank you big brother for your compassion. Much appreciate it.

    Regards

    AS

  • Kalid M

    The Sahara is to Morocco is what Tibet is to China.
    It has been Moroccan for 35 years and in 35 years there will still be a group of freedom fighters demanding an impossible independence. Meanwhile the issue is holding hostage the development of the region.

  • Laroussi

    “The dispute over the Western Sahara is a complex one–Morocco claims it as their own, while the Saharan independence movement (the Polisario), backed by Algeria, desires independence.”

    Dear Jillian,

    The dispute over Western Sahara is not complex. It is a matter of decolonization and illegal occupation which both the UN and The International Court in the Hague has ruled in different occasions since decades back.

    It is not a case where two equal opponents struggle over who is right and who is not, word against word.

    Morocco has no legal claim over the territory, only the Saharawi people do. There is nothing complicated or complex about this.

    The parties did argue many years about who should be allowed to vote or not but in 2003 Polisario accepted all previous Moroccan demands when agreeing to the Baker plan. After that Morocco simply ruled out a referendum with independence as an option.

    This is a black and white story with few shades of grey, legalistically speaking.

    What does complicate matters is politics. France, Spain and the USA do not want to “rock the boat” and upset Morocco. They don’t care about the people of Western Sahara or their right to self-determination. Everyone knows that Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara is illegal (aka an occupation) but since Morocco is an ally or a “friend” things go political and international law is put aside.

    Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara in 1975-1979 is no more legal or just than the anexation of Poland of Nazi-Germany in 1939. The mayor difference is that the international community not only condemned the annexation (the UN condemned the Moroccan/Mauritanian invasion too) but acted against it.

    Unfortunately for all of us politics (aka power) and not law seems to rule in this conflict as in other parts of the world.

  • http://www.corcas.com Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad

    Just a comment on the comparaison of Morocco’s recovering of the Western Sahara region and the annexion of Poland by Nazi-germany. It’s an offense to all the saharawis who are moroccans since many centuries and those who fought against the Spanish army to liberate the region. I believe the upset is in the algerian side. Western countries don’t want to upset Algeria because of gas/oil arm. If Algeria had no gas and oil the Western Sahara issue would have been closed since 1991 (end of the Soviet Union block). Nobody can stop the reconciliation process initiated by the unionist western saharawis to join families in the Western Sahara region. The UN is working on that but Algeria’ oil and gas is still making the usual weight on the worldwide economy or at least on the EU economy.

    Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad
    Unionist Western Saharawi

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