New round of UN talks hopes to break Western Sahara deadlock

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The United Nations holds talks in Geneva that are aimed at resolving the long-running Western-Sahara territorial dispute between Morocco and the indigenous Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front.

United Nations efforts have repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the territory, which has been contested since Spanish colonial power left in 1974.

The foreign ministers of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania and the secretary-general of the Polisario Front were invited, according to Reuters. Morocco has insisted that Algeria should be brought to the negotiating table, accusing it of backing Polisario militarily and financially. Algeria denies the accusations.

In October Agence France-Presse reported that Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front have accepted the invitation.

Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975. A 16-year-long insurgency ended with a UN-brokered truce in 1991 and the promise of a referendum on independence which has yet to take place.

According the BBC timeline of the dispute, a buffer strip with landmines and fortifications stretches the length of the disputed territory and separates the Moroccan-administered western portion from the eastern area controlled by the Polisario Front. The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), declared by the Polisario Front in 1976, is now recognised by many governments and is a full member of the African Union.

The territory has phosphate reserves and rich fishing grounds off its coast, as well as yet untapped offshore oil deposits.

U.N. invites Western Sahara parties for new talks in December (Reuters Oct 2018)

Western Sahara timeline (BBC)

Four parties agree to Western Sahara talks (AFP Oct 2018)

Date written/update: 2018-11-15