UN presses on with bid to restart Western Sahara talks

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New York - The UN Security Council on Wednesday told the peace envoy for Western Sahara to press on with talks on relaunching negotiations to settle the dispute over the North African territory.

Horst Koehler met with the council behind closed doors to report on his meetings with representatives from Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania as well as the Polisario Front seeking independence for Western Sahara.

Council members expressed "their full support" for Koehler's diplomatic efforts to "relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit," said the council president, Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

However, no date was announced for the resumption of formal talks on ending the dispute.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Koehler, a former German president, in August with a view to kick-start the peace process.

The last round of UN-brokered negotiations on a Western Sahara settlement were held in 2012.

The council "underscored the importance of maintaining constructive engagement" and said there should be no changes to the status of the buffer zone near Guerguerat, said Van Oosterom.

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Morocco has accused the Polisario Front of carrying out incursions in the buffer zone near Guerguerat, an area in southern Western Sahara near the Mauritanian border.

Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.

Rabat considers Western Sahara an integral part of the kingdom and proposes autonomy for the territory, but the Polisario Front insists on a UN referendum on independence.

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