Western Sahara talks to resume on small scale prior to formal negotiations?

AFP has reported that “Algeria’s government on Friday welcomed a call by the UN Security Council for Morocco and the Polisario independence movement to resume talks on the future of Western Sahara  … The 15 Council members unanimously voted on Thursday to extend the mandate of a UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until April 2010.  Member countries call upon both sides ‘to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) without pre-conditions and in good faith’, the council’s latest resolution said … The two sides agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991, but a promised self-determination referendum never materialised … Ban’s envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, toured the north African region earlier this year, and returned to win UN backing for a plan to ‘hold small, informal talks in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations’.  He concluded that the conditions were not yet appropriate for a fifth round of formal talks, following four sets without a breakthrough in Manhasset, a New York suburb”. This report can be read in full here.

I don’t know what Algeria is so pleased about. This business of “without pre-conditions” simply seems to mean forget what the UN Security Council previously endorsed, which is a referendum in which Sahrawis from Western Sahara would vote to decide if they want independence, or integration with Morocco.

Now, the international community as represented in-or-by the UN Security Council is saying, forget it, that didn’t work, you’ve cost us a lot of time and money (in peace-keeping missions, diplomatic meetings, and whatever) so the time has come to be realistic, and what you will get to vote on is just whether or not you’ll agree to autonomy within the Kingdom of Morocco. That’s it.

And that’s what gives diplomacy a bad name.

See our previous post here. This post was written just before the fourth round of talks in Manhasset, 11-13 March 2008.

But, by the way, this diplomatic “realism” didn’t start with the U.S. — it started with UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, a royalist if ever there was one, who was on quite good terms with King Hassan of Morocco, who began floating this proposal to just forget the referendum the UN Security Council had authorized, and work on “negotiations” to persuade the Polisario to agree to the autonomy proposal that Morocco had always wanted…

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