Morocco FM says talks with UN envoy on Western Sahara “fruitful”

Nasser Bourita

CASABLANCA - Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said Tuesday talks with US special envoy to Western Sahara Horst Köhler in Lisbon were”rich” and “fruitful.”
Bourita, who chaired the Morocco delegation during the meeting with Köhler, said that Morocco “remains on its positions as to the possibility of a resumption of negotiations with the Polisario Front,” demanding Algeria take part in the talks.
“Overall, the discussions took place in an atmosphere of serenity and the debates were rich and fruitful. The atmosphere was one of seriousness and mutual respect,” said Bourita after the meeting.
“This is not a negotiation process or negotiation, but a contact to discuss the evolution of the Moroccan Sahara issue,” he said.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and maintains it is an integral part of the kingdom. Algerian-backed Polisario Front separatists began an armed conflict with Morocco for an independent state that lasted until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
Rabat has proposed a form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the territory. The proposal was rejected by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which insists on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination in a UN-monitored vote.
The Moroccan FM said that the meeting was also an opportunity for the relevant members of the Moroccan delegation to present Morocco's effort to implement the regional development model and the structures of advanced regionalization besides the Moroccan autonomy initiative.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI said last November that no settlement of the Sahara affair was possible outside the framework of the full sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara and the autonomy initiative.
The participation of the Moroccan delegation in Lisbon meeting at Köhler’s invitation is part of Morocco's ongoing cooperation with the United Nations to reach a final political solution to the regional dispute over the Sahara, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in a statement.
Kohler is working to restart talks between Morocco and the Polisario on ending the decades-old conflict.
The meeting also came few weeks before the UN Security Council discusses Western Sahara on April 25 ahead of a vote on renewing the UN mission's mandate.