No progress on fate of Western Sahara | News | DW | 14.03.2012
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No progress on fate of Western Sahara

The fate of sparsely-populated Western Sahara remains in doubt, after the latest round of regional talks on the territory's political future failed to produce any results. UN mediators say the talks will continue.

Three days of talks between northwest African powers on the future of Western Sahara ended Tuesday with no progress on the disputed region's future.

Representatives of Morocco, the Polisario Front independence movement, Algeria and Mauritania were meeting in Greentree, Long Island, near New York City for a ninth round of informal negotiations in a process that began five years ago.

"Each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as the sole basis for future negotiations, while reiterating their willingness to work together to reach a solution," UN envoy for Western Sahara Christopher Ross said in a statement. "As was the case in the previous informal meetings, the discussions took place in an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect."

Ross added that the meetings would continue in Europe in June, and at another site to be determined in July. He said he would visit the region in mid-May.

Western Sahara was once a colony of Spain, which ceded the territory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975. The two countries fought a war for control with the rebel Polisario Front, and Mauritania withdrew in 1979.

A UN-backed ceasefire ended the armed conflict in 1991, but a promised referendum on the territory's fate never took place. Morocco has proposed broad autonomy, but the Polisario Front has insisted on the "inalienable right" of the region's inhabitants to self-determination.

The size of Great Britain with only 400,000 inhabitants, Western Sahara is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the world. It has phosphates and fisheries, and potentially oil and gas deposits.

acb/ncy (AP, Reuters)