UN to convene Western Sahara talks in NY


Representatives of Morocco and Western Sahara’s independence movement, Polisario, will meet next week to try to break an impasse over the resource-rich territory’s future, said the UN.

The two sides, along with officials from Algeria and Mauritania, will meet in the town of Manhasset near New York City on November 8-9, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony with a population of under half a million and large mineral resources, was annexed in 1975 by Morocco, which has been calling on the Algerian-backed independence movement to free a Polisario dissident.

The area is rich in phosphates — used in making fertilizers — and, potentially, offshore oil and gas.

The last round of Western Sahara talks, which were held in Armonk, New York, in February, ended without any movement in the 35-year-old dispute.

Rabat offers the territory autonomy while the Polisario, based in desert camps across the border in Algeria, says it wants a referendum with independence as one of the options.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, has been visiting the region to discuss the possibility of restarting stalled talks to open a path for a peaceful resolution of Africa’s longest-running territorial dispute.

Ross is scheduled to address the UN Security Council on November 23 when the 15-nation body holds closed-door consultations on the issue.