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The fourth round of negotiations on the Sahara, held from 16 to 18 March, 2008 in Manhasset, New York, under the auspices of the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General, during which members of the Moroccan delegation reiterated Morocco's attachment to negotiations on the Sahara under the UN auspices, but remains, in contrast, non - lenient at all with regard to the defence of territorial integrity. 

Khalihenna calls Polisario and Algeria to waive impossible demands and negotiate in good faith

3/16/2008



Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid invited, chief of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs, invited Polisario and Algeria to waive impossible demands, and negotiate in good faith to reach a consensual political solution to end Sahara conflict.

 
Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid expressed to the press on Sunday evening at the "Green Tree" entrance in Manhasset, regret that Polisario and Algeria, as in previous rounds, did not progress in order to reach the desired solution , expressing the hope that this round will be an important stage to move things forward and reach an agreement that is in the interest of all parties.

He added that Polisario does not have the adequate margin for decision-making by virtue of their dependence on Algeria, which does not want to reach a political solution to this conflict."

He said that the kingdom was behind this new momentum by providing a plan for final solution compatible with the claims of Saharan people and with the aspirations of the international community and the Security Council to turn the page on this long-standing dispute

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid added that Morocco is entering the fourth round of the Manhasset negotiations in good faith and full readiness to reach a final solution to the Sahara conflict in accordance with Security Council resolutions 1754 and 1783

He said that despite the provocations of Polisario in the buffer zone Tifariti, "Morocco is entering these negotiations and extending its hand to the other party to resolve this dispute through negotiation, but" will not renounce its firm historical sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the rights to lift the siege imposed on the nationals held in Tindouf camps for more than a third of a century in blatant violation of their human rights afforded by international conventions. "

He stressed that Morocco is putting forward the autonomy proposal, which reacts with the international community's desire to reach a political solution, and fill the gap with the other parties, while Algeria and the Polisario are still "at point zero since 1975."

Morocco participates in the 4th round with good faith, determined to defend its sovereignty 
 3/17/2008

Morocco on Monday made it clear that the 32-year old Sahara dispute with the Polisario separatist movement will not be resolved without Algeria's "active involvement" in the UN-led peace process. 

 "Morocco is deeply convinced that a solution is not possible without Algeria's active involvement in the peace process, given the key role this country can play to overcome obstacles and reconcile viewpoints," said the Moroccan Minister of Interior at the opening of the fourth round of negotiations between the North African country and the Polisario in Manhasset, outskirts of New York.

    Chakib Benmoussa reiterated Morocco's call to "our brothers in this sister, neighbor nation, asking them to seize this historic opportunity in order to turn the page on the past and to contribute to leading our peoples towards a bright future (...) instead of wasting resources on outdated disputes that only lead to hegemony and balkanization."

    The Moroccan minister made a similar call to the Polisario separatist urging them to "contribute effectively to finding a mutually acceptable solution that fulfils their desire to run their own regional affairs" in an allusion to Morocco's proposal to grant substantial autonomy to its Southern Provinces, known as the Sahara. 

    "There is no room any longer for hegemony, recklessness or foreign exploitation," Mr. Benmoussa told the Polisario representatives whom he expects "to show, in concrete ways, that they are partners able to assume their responsibilities, that their claims are realistic ones and that they are major enough to take part in genuine reconciliation."
 
     He voiced Morocco’s determination to “engage in serious negotiations,”  adding that the kingdom is fully prepared to shed light on the various aspects of the autonomy Initiative, “which remains the only course of action likely to lead to a final solution for the Sahara dispute as well as an honorable way out for all (…).”

Full text of Morocco's speech by Chakib Benmoussa

Here follows the full text of Morocco's speech, delivered, on Monday, by Moroccan Minister of the Interior, Chakib Benmoussa, at the opening of the fourth round of negotiations between the North African country and the Polisario in Manhasset (the outskirts of New York), under the aegis of the United States:

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
 
Mr. Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The delegation representing the Kingdom of Morocco is participating in this fourth round of negotiations with the same good faith, strong determination and sincere commitment to Security Council resolutions 1754 and 1783, just as it took part in the third negotiation round. Morocco’s objective is to abide by the international community's strong determination to make this round the gateway to real and substantive negotiations.
 
To contribute to finding the solution desired by our brothers in the Sahara, whether they belong to the vast majority that lives in the territory, or to the minority that resides outside, Morocco proposed the autonomy Initiative. Based on this bold Initiative - and indeed thanks to it - it has been possible to launch these negotiations. One of the positive outcomes of the Kingdom of Morocco’s Initiative was that it contributed to breaking the stalemate which had lasted for so many years. This Initiative is neither a stratagem nor an improvised scheme. In fact, it was proposed by Morocco after careful consideration and deep reflection that lasted several years. The Initiative is also the result of meetings and consultations which involved all of the Kingdom’s institutions and the nation's stakeholders, particularly the shioukhs, elected officials, dignitaries and civil society in the Southern Provinces, and these populations' jamaas as well as the advisory institution representing them. The Initiative has enjoyed the unanimous support of all segments of the Moroccan people, who is deeply convinced of its legitimate rights and is fully mobilized, internally, to defend its cause.
 
Because the Initiative is fully consistent with true democratic practice, and since it respects the principle of self-determination, it has enjoyed special consideration and praise from the Security Council, the international community and influential countries, which called for this Initiative to be used as the basis for negotiations.
 
Security Council resolution 1754 praised the efforts exerted by Morocco, calling them serious and credible; it saw in them a clear intention to move forward towards a final settlement. The Council was even more explicit in resolution 1783 when it stressed that negotiations should take into account the efforts exerted since 2006. This is a clear reference to the autonomy Initiative which the Kingdom of Morocco had been keen to finalize that same year.
 
To show our determination to engage in serious negotiations, we are fully prepared to shed light on the various aspects of the autonomy Initiative, which remains the only course of action likely to lead to a final solution for the Sahara dispute as well as an honorable way out for all; a solution which fully guarantees the rights of all Saharans, wherever they may be, with all due constitutional and international assurances.
 
However, Morocco and the international community note, most regrettably, that the other parties are still clinging to the same rigid stances and obsolete ideas which had precipitated the Sahara issue into a stalemate. In fact, these parties concocted an ill thought-out "proposal" about which there had been no democratic consultations. As a result, the international community was not interested in it, showing, quite clearly that this "proposal" is nothing but a desperate attempt to waste time, undermine the negotiations and frustrate the efforts of the international community to resolve the Sahara dispute once and for all.
 
Mr. Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
There have been important developments in Morocco to further promote democracy, including through free and fair elections in which Saharan populations participated spontaneously. Similarly, our Southern Provinces are witnessing comprehensive development programs, and civil liberties and freedom of expression and movement are fully respected there, in accordance with the rule of law and human rights as they are universally recognized, as is the case in the Kingdom’s other provinces, and in keeping with the country’s Constitution. Whereas the Moroccan Initiative continues to enjoy further support, and whereas the Kingdom of Morocco has been calling upon neighboring countries to promote genuine regional cooperation, coordinate efforts and join forces in order to rise to challenges and confront terrorist perils which threaten the region’s security and stability, we note, with great surprise, that the other parties are opting for an escalation of tensions and are threatening to go back to armed struggle. They are also carrying out provocative acts in the buffer zone - in a blatant violation of Security Council resolutions and in clear contradiction with the very spirit of negotiation - and are attempting to instigate unrest. Among the latest consequences and innocent casualties of this policy of aggression is the death of a security officer who was killed in the line of duty, as a result of a deliberate criminal attack at the hands of a group of people utilized by other parties. We consider these acts of aggression to be quite inconsistent with the serene, peaceful atmosphere required by negotiations.
 
Morocco reaffirms its commitment to dialogue as a civilized means to resolve pending issues. It reiterates its strong condemnation of all provocative acts and all forms of irresponsible behavior. Once again, the Kingdom of Morocco stresses that it will not accept, under any circumstances, that the status quo in that region be modified, or that any fait accompli be imposed in its territory, including in areas east of the berm. Morocco is fully determined to preserve its territorial integrity, throughout its Sahara and with all means at its disposal. It reserves the right to defend its national security and legitimate imprescriptible sovereignty against anyone.
 
Morocco has consistently and resolutely refused to be dragged into such a dangerous escalation, facing repeated threats and provocative measures with great wisdom and composure. Indeed, in many difficult circumstances, my country showed exceptional sagacity and restraint. Its aim has always been to spare the region the calamities of tension and unrest, which some parties are trying to unleash.  My country will pursue its efforts to preserve peace and to promote the trust confidence required by negotiation, away from any threats or intimidations. Morocco is determined to work for an honorable way out and for the achievement of a win-win political solution which conforms to international legality.


Mr. Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The Maghreb region faces increasing terrorist threats and other criminal activities that are carried out by networks trafficking in weapons, human beings and illegal migration. These gangs are exploiting artificial disputes among Maghreb countries and in their African Sahel environment, at a time when Maghreb countries should be focusing on coordinated action to confront terrorism and promote security, stability, unity and prosperity. We all must realize the seriousness of the situation and seek to overcome disputes in order to find a quick political solution to the Sahara issue. This is the main obstacle to a united, solidarity-based Maghreb. A continuation of the current situation would only deepen the crisis and create further instability, a goal terrorist gangs are doing their utmost to achieve in order to carry out their criminal agenda.
 
To achieve Maghreb unity, the Kingdom of Morocco is once again holding out its hand to all countries in the region, in all sincerity and with a keen desire to preserve everyone’s dignity. It is calling upon these countries to cooperate and work jointly together in order to rise to challenges and start a new chapter based on mutual assistance, reciprocal respect and joint action for the benefit of our peoples. In this respect, Morocco wishes to commend Mauritania for its position which reflects great wisdom and positive attitude indeed as it seeks to calm things down in the region.
 
It is most regrettable that a party stubbornly continues its lack of cooperation with the United Nations process for a political solution, using, to that end, all the diplomatic means at its disposal, including freezing bilateral cooperation thus hindering the Maghreb Arab Union. 

 

Mr. Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The United Nations Organization opened new prospects by calling for direct negotiations in good faith, and for working to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution that takes into consideration the current debate on international law and political facts on the ground. We realize there are still many obstacles hindering this solution because the other parties do not want these negotiations to succeed; they are calling for further intransigence in a desperate attempt to lay the Moroccan Initiative to rest and to maintain the status quo. But such an attitude only enhances our resolve to seek a solution and forge ahead with negotiations.

The time has come for polisario representatives to contribute effectively to finding a mutually acceptable solution that fulfils their desire to run their own regional affairs. Our democratic, united country guarantees that for them. There is no room any longer for hegemony, recklessness or foreign exploitation. For this reason, we expect them to show, in concrete ways, that they are partners able to assume their responsibilities, that their claims are realistic ones and that they are major enough to take part in genuine reconciliation.

Until you make a general assessment of the negotiation process, Morocco will continue to hope that the contacts you made during your visit to the region, which we welcomed, will convince the other parties to adopt a flexible, clear-sighted position in order to break the stalemate and start serious and substantive negotiations. We firmly believe that your vast experience and deep understanding of complex international issues will help you overcome obstacles, provided the other party shows good faith, breaks free from the shackles of the past and fulfils the aspiration of the international community, which is expecting a positive, realistic response to the Moroccan Initiative. A just, realistic and honorable solution for all the parties concerned can be achieved through autonomy, full autonomy, and nothing but autonomy.

In view of the above, Morocco is deeply convinced that a solution is not possible without Algeria’s active involvement in the peace process, given the key role this country can play to overcome obstacles and reconcile viewpoints. Therefore, we wish to call upon our brothers in this sister, neighbor nation, asking them to seize this historic opportunity in order to turn the page on the past and to contribute to leading our peoples towards a bright future, in which our energies would be geared towards fulfilling the real expectations of our peoples, who aspire for a united and safe Maghreb Union; a Maghreb Union that provides for its peoples’ development, life in dignity and full-fledged citizenship, instead of wasting resources on outdated disputes that only lead to hegemony and balkanization.

The Kingdom of Morocco wishes to pay a warm tribute to the United Nations for the dedicated efforts it is exerting to give these negotiations their true meaning and to move effectively towards a solution. Morocco also expresses sincere thanks to the UN Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, His Excellency Mr. Lynn Pascoe, the Personal Envoy for the Sahara, His Excellency Mr. Peter van Walsum, their close assistants and all related UN institutions and friendly nations for the efforts they are making to achieve a just, final and mutually acceptable political solution to the Sahara issue.

Thank you.

Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.

 

 Press conference of the Moroccan delegation at the Permanent Mission of Morocco to the United Nations
Morocco committed to negotiations, intransigent over its territorial integrity  
3/18/2008

Morocco remains committed to the negotiations process underway with the Algerian-backed separatist movement Polisario, but remains fully intransigent over its territorial integrity, members of the Moroccan delegation to the UN-facilitated negotiations on the Sahara said here late at night. 

During a press conference, at the end of the fourth round of these negotiations in Manhasset, New York, Chakib Benmoussa, Minister of the Interior, Taieb  Fassi Fihri, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Khalihenna Ould Errachid, Chairman of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), and Mohamed Yassine Mansouri, chief of Morocco's intelligence, reiterated the kingdom's  commitment to pursue these negotiations with an "open-minded approach" and "good faith", in order to reach a final solution to the 32-year old dispute over the former Spanish colony.

    They, however, made it clear that Morocco will not accept any fait accompli imposed by the separatists or any attempt to alter the reality or the status quo at the east of the Defense Wall erected by Morocco in the early eighties to prevent any attack of the Polisario. The latter had waged a war against Morocco until 1991 when the United Nations brokered a ceasefire.

    During the press conference, the Moroccan Minister of the Interior reiterated that the kingdom's proposal to grant substantial autonomy to its Southern Provinces, the Sahara, is a "historical solution of compromise that enables a win-win way out and a final settlement of the conflict, which respects the international legality and takes into account the regional and local realities."

    He added that Morocco has reiterated all along the negotiations process and in a crystal-clear manner, that “the choice is not between autonomy and independence but rather between autonomy and the status quo with all the sufferings it causes to the populations held against their will in (the Polisario-run) Tindouf camps  (southwestern Algeria).

    Echoing him, Foreign Minister, Fassi Fihri, described as "global, serious and credible answer" the autonomy proposal which, he said,  enables to reach "together with Algeria and the Polisario the best possible solution which paves the way for reconciliation and the return of all Sahrawis to their motherland, Morocco."

    Such a solution, he said, will also guarantee "the normalization of bilateral relations with Algeria and, hence, the building of the Arab Maghreb."

    He however regretted that the Polisario and its mentor Algeria “have tried during this round to fight this initiative.”

    For his part, the Chief of Morocco’s intelligence made it clear that Morocco will not hesitate in undertaking the necessary actions, with firmness, against any attempt to change the reality on the ground that prevailed prior to the presence of the UN peace-keeping mission MINURSO. The latter was deployed in the region in 1991 to supervise the ceasefire.
    As to the CORCAS chairman, he urged the Polisario to review its stances and Algeria to contribute to efforts aiming at moving forward in the negotiations process.

    The same call was issued by Mr. Fassi Fihri who insisted on the key role –in this dispute- of Algeria which continues to refuse any census of the Sahrawi populations on its territory and prevents their return to Morocco.

    As to the current military maneuvers held in the region, the Moroccan Minister of Interior described these maneuvers as “ordinary operations held every year.”

   “The Polisario and Algeria speak of military maneuvers as if Morocco was preparing for war. The kingdom is carrying out this military exercise in the framework of its sovereignty and in contact with the MINURSO,” said, for his part, the Moroccan Foreign minister.

   At the end of this fourth round, attended also by representatives from Algeria and Mauritania as observer countries, Morocco and the Polisario “reiterated their commitment to continue the negotiations at Manhasset at a date to be determined by common agreement," a communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Sahara, Peter van Walsum, said on Tuesday.

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: The margin of Polisario's decision is "extremely limited"  

  The margin of Polisario's decision is "extremely limited", as it is at the mercy of Algeria, said Khalihenna Ould Errachid, chairman of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS).  

  

Polisario is on Algerian territory. It is funded and guided by Algeria and certainly the one who finances is the one who commands," said Ould Errachid in a press statement Tuesday in Manhasset (New York), at the end of the 4th round of negotiations on the Sahara.

As for Algeria, it says, on the one hand, want to seek a solution to the Sahara conflict to promote the building of the Arab Maghreb, but on the other hand, it provides no effort to facilitate the process of negotiations and back the efforts aimed at finding a political settlement to this issue, he noted.

During the 4th round of the talks, he said, it became clear that the Polisario still need time to assimilate the new fact, while Morocco has shown, through the autonomy proposal, realism and objectivity.

Mr. Khalihenna hoped that the Polisario’s position would evolve in the next round of talks and that it would adhere to the realistic solution proposed by Morocco.

 

 Parties to Manhasset talks agree to continue negotiations, Van Walsum
3/19/2008
 

The fourth round of UN-facilitated negotiations between Morocco and the Algerian-backed separatist movement "Polisario" on the Sahara dispute wrapped up, here Tuesday, with the parties agreeing to continue these talks in the future. "In  concluding this fourth round of talks, the parties reiterated their commitment to continue the negotiations at Manhasset at a date to be determined by common agreement," a communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Sahara, Peter Van Walsum, said on Tuesday.   


The communiqué read by Mr. Van Walsum at the end of this round, added that "the discussions focused on the implementation of the Security Council resolutions 1754 and 1783. The parties also discussed thematic subjects such as administration, justices and resources."

   The UN Envoy said that among a number of proposals he made to expand confidence-building measures, there was the agreement among the parties to explore the establishment of family visits by land, which would be in addition to the existing program by air.

    The first, second and third rounds had taken place in June, August (2007) and January (2008), in the same venue pursuant to the UN Security Council Resolution 1754 of April 30, which had called on the parties to "enter into negotiations without preconditions and in good faith." Representatives of Morocco’s neighbors, Algeria and Mauritania, attended the talks as observers and were consulted separately.

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