Sahara issue: Morocco at ‘historical turning point’

Morocco is witnessing a historical "turning point as result of the launch of the Manhasset negotiations between the parties in the Sahara issue," Morocco's Foreign Minister said on Monday.

Addressing the 62nd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Mohamed Benaissa highlighted that the turning point "results from the dynamic created by the Moroccan Initiative on a Statute of Autonomy," which, he said, "has opened promising perspectives for overcoming the stalemate" the Sahara issue faces at the UN level.

    He also stressed Morocco's commitment to moving forward to reach a final solution to one of the longest regional disputes in Africa, "within the framework of its national sovereignty and territorial integrity advance as well as on the basis of the Autonomy Initiative, as the ultimate objective of the negotiation process and as an open, flexible and indivisible offer."

    The initiative, Mr. Benaissa went on, "offers the fundamental elements necessary for a realistic, applicable and final political solution to a regional dispute that hinders the construction of a strong and homogenous Maghreb, interacting with its geopolitical environment."

    The Sahara, a former Spanish colony, was ceded by Spain to Morocco in 1975 under the Madrid Accords. The separatist movement "Polisario Front," backed by Algeria, claims the independence of the territory.

    In accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 1754, the two parties held two rounds of negotiations in June and August. A third round is expected, but so far no date or venue have been set.

    Morocco had on April 11 presented a draft plan to grant substantial autonomy to its Southern Provinces known as the Sahara.

    Touching on the latest developments in the Middle East, the minister noted that the difficult circumstances in the region require the mobilization of intense efforts in order to put an end to a lengthy and difficult conflict.

    “Morocco, which follows closely all these evolutions, reiterates once again the pressing need to reactivate the peace process according to a comprehensive approach and on the basis of the agreements signed by the parties, including the Road Map and the Arab Peace initiative,” he added.

    As for UN peacekeeping, the Moroccan official stressed the importance of these operations, recalling that the North African kingdom “was among the pioneers to contribute to UN efforts by participating since 1960 with more than 50,000 blue helmets in 13 peacekeeping operations across four continents”.

    Taking into account Morocco’s experience and field expertise, Mr.Benaissa stressed Morocco’s belief that it is “high time to proceed to the examination of ways and means to reinforce legal basis and the organizational network of peace keeping operations.”

    As such, he said, the kingdom proposes to hold next year a high level segment to examine this issue in all its aspects to adopt new norms and mechanisms to guarantee the success of peacekeeping operations.”