Africa

UN sets sights on Western Sahara talks in December: diplomats

The United Nations has invited Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front to talks in December on ending their decades-old conflict over Western Sahara, diplomats said Saturday.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict between the Polisario Front (flag and soldier pictured October 2017) and Morocco for control of the Western Sahara have been deadlocked since 2008
Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict between the Polisario Front (flag and soldier pictured October 2017) and Morocco for control of the Western Sahara have been deadlocked since 2008 (RYAD KRAMDI/AFP)

The United Nations has invited Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front to talks in December on ending their decades-old conflict over Western Sahara, diplomats said Saturday.

UN envoy Horst Koehler, a former president of Germany and ex-director of the International Monetary Fund, has invited the two sides along with Algeria and Mauritania to Geneva for talks on December 4-5.

In letters sent to the four parties, the envoy requested a response by October 20, according to diplomatic sources.

Morocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have been deadlocked since the last round of UN-sponsored talks in 2008.

Morocco maintains that negotiations on a settlement should focus on its proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara and rejects the Polisario's insistence on an independence referendum.

The Security Council in April approved a US-drafted resolution that urged Morocco and the Polisario to prepare for talks, setting a six-month deadline for action.

Koehler told the council last month that he planned to convene talks before the end of the year.