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Activist’s Return To Western Sahara

UN Chief Relieved At Activist’s Return To Western Sahara

New York, Dec 18 2009 10:10AM Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his great relief that an independence activist from Western Sahara has returned home, ending an impasse that led to her hunger strike lasting more than one month.

Aminatou Haidar began her protest at the airport at Lanzarote on Spain’s Canary Islands, after Morocco denied her entry into her native Western Sahara in mid-November.

In recent days, Mr. Ban held talks with officials from Spain and Morocco in a bid to break the deadlock as Ms. Haidar’s condition rapidly deteriorated.

The Secretary-General is “grateful for the efforts of all parties involved in finding a solution to this situation,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

It added that he “had urged repeatedly that humanitarian concerns prevail in this case and he appreciates the action Morocco has taken in this regard.”

Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after Spain’s colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy, while the Frente Polisario's position is that the territory's final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.

Mr. Ban also voiced hope in the statement that the parties will now work with his Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, to re-start negotiations in the near future towards a settlement of the Western Sahara issue.

Last month, Mr. Ban voiced concern over the tensions between the parties to status talks after the recent detention of several groups of Saharawi activists. A UN mission in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, is entrusted with monitoring a ceasefire reached in September 1991 and organizing a referendum on self-determination.

ENDS

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