Morocco-Western Sahara rebels talks end in deadlock

The two sides have agreed to meet again on January 21-22 and in March.

Updated: Dec 19, 2010, 09:50 AM IST

Manhasset: Morocco and the Western Sahara rebel group, the Polisario Front, on Saturday ended more UN-brokered talks without making progress on the future of the disputed north African territory.

"Each party continues to reject the proposal of the other as a sole basis for future negotiations," UN special envoy Christopher Ross said at the end of the three days of talks at Manhasset, near New York.

The two sides have agreed to meet again on January 21-22 and in March and proposed "concrete ideas" aimed at giving a new impetus to the talks in 2011, Ross added.

Morocco started to annex Western Sahara after Spain withdrew in 1975. The Polisario Front has demanded a self-determination referendum, while Morocco has offered greater autonomy.

Front guerrillas fought Moroccan forces until a UN-brokered ceasefire came into effect in 1991.

The Polisario Front blamed Morocco for the deadlock in the latest informal talks. "The Moroccan delegation remained entrenched in its obstructionist attitude based on an obsolete and undemocratic approach," said Khatri Adduh, head of the Polisario delegation.

Morocco`s Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri highlighted the decision to "energise the process" and said his delegation had made many proposals to boost efforts to reach a political solution.

Fihri said Morocco wanted "a better environment for a real and deep and frank and better negotiations”.

Talks last month were overshadowed by a November 08 raid by Moroccan security forces on a huge squatter camp near Western Sahara`s main city of Laayoune. And it was raised again in these negotiations.

Fihri said international and human rights groups had confirmed that no civilians inside the camp were killed. He said that only police were killed in clashes. According to Moroccan authorities 11 security forces died on November 08.

The Polisario Front had previously said dozens were killed.

The Polisario delegation demanded that an international inquiry be allowed to go to the Gdaium Izik camp near Laayoune. The European Parliament has called for an independent UN investigation of the raid.

Bureau Report