Polisario says ready for Western Sahara talks with Rabat

Algiers- The Algiers-backed Polisario Front independence movement said on Monday it was prepared to embark on negotiations with Morocco on the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The Polisario is "ready to hold negotiations with Morocco on the basis of the right of Sahrawis to self-determination", senior official Mhamed Khadad told a news conference in the Algerian capital.

He said the African Union and United Nations should both be involved in the peace process in which the Polisario would aim for "freedom and national independence".

On Friday, the United Nations set its sights on restarting political talks on the territory after the Polisario pulled back fighters from a tense zone on the border with Mauritania.

UN military observers confirmed that the Polisario forces carried out the withdrawal from the Guerguerat area on Thursday and Friday.

"This action should improve the prospects of creating an environment... to relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

News of the pullback came as the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the new peace initiative and renewing the mandate of its MINURSO peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara for a year.

The 450-strong MINURSO is comprised mostly of military observers monitoring a 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario.

Rabat welcomed the Security Council resolution.

France, which has friendly ties with Morocco, had insisted on a Polisario pullback from Guerguerat after Rabat withdrew its forces from the zone in February.

Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, when Rabat took over the desert territory before the signing of the UN-brokered ceasefire.

Rabat, which considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco, proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Polisario insists on an independence referendum.

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