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Ban Appeals For Progress In Western Sahara Talks

Secretary-General appeals for progress in UN-led Western Sahara talks

On the eve of the third round of United Nations-led talks on Western Sahara, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the parties to use the opportunity to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of discussions.

"The Secretary-General recognizes that it will take both time and patience to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to this longstanding dispute," according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Mediated by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy Peter van Walsum, the three-day talks are taking place in Manhasset, New York, at the Greentree Estate, the site of the two previous rounds of negotiations that took place in June and August of 2007.

Mr. Ban expressed his appreciation to Morocco and the Frente Polisario, as well as to neighboring States, for accepting his invitation to the discussions to be held under the terms of Security Council resolutions 1754 (2007) and 1783 (2007).

The second round of talks last August ended with agreement among the parties that the status quo is unacceptable and the process of negotiations will continue.

In his October 2007 report on the issue, Mr. Ban said the two sides held mutually exclusive positions that had prevented them from seriously discussing each other's proposals 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 the Territory since September 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario.

Last October, the Security Council extended MINURSO's mandate through this April, calling 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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