Will peace finally come to Western Sahara?

A meeting of Western Sahara Sahrawi. (Photo source: BirLahlou/WikiMedia Commons)
A meeting of Western Sahara Sahrawi. (Photo source: BirLahlou/WikiMedia Commons)

Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front have accepted a U.N. invitation to hold Western Sahara peace talks in December in Switzerland.

Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the upper North African coast, one-fifth controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and four-fifths controlled by Morocco. It borders Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania.

The Polisario Front is the Sahrawi national liberation movement.

The U.N. has repeatedly tried to broker an agreement since Spain left Western Sahara, its former colony, in 1974, with the last round of U.N.-sponsored negotiations in 2012.

The Algerian-backed Polisario Front fought against Morocco from 1975–1991. In 1990, the U.N. helped negotiate a ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario and also a referendum on Western Saharan status, but the vote was never held.

The U.N. maintains a small peacekeeping force of 700 personnel, and the Security Council is deciding whether to renew the mandate for the mission.

December’s talks could lead to formal negotiations, though Morocco maintains that any talks must focus on autonomy for Western Sahara.

The Polisario and Algeria state that the territory’s status must be decided in an independence referendum.

Sources: Reuters, Agence France Presse

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