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.
- Statement by the chairman of the Royal Advisory Council
for Saharan Affairs, at the entrance of the negotiations residence
The Kingdom of Morocco came to this fourth round in good faith as it did for the previous ones and with willingness to reach a final solution to the Sahara conflict in accordance with Security Council resolutions 1754 and 1783. The Kingdom of Morocco was behind the beginning of this new process, which began last year when it provided a project of a final solution compatible with demands of the people of the Sahara and with the demands of the Kingdom of Morocco, as well as with the aspirations of the international community and the Security Council to turn the page of this long-standing dispute.
Unfortunately, as in previous rounds, Polisario Front and Algeria have not made an effort so far to reach the desired solution. This requires giving up all impossible demands to investigate and negotiate to reach a consensual political solution to end the conflict permanently.
Morocco offers helping hand to resolve this dispute through negotiation, but will never give up its firm historical rights of sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the rights to lift the siege on its citizens in Tindouf who are not allowed to leave Tindouf and who do not enjoy freedoms. They have been detained for more than a third of a century and do not enjoy the basic human rights such as the right to travel and movement.
- Statement of Peter van Walsum, Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations:
The Parties discussed thematic issues such as administration, justice and resources among the various proposals put forward for the expansion of confidence-building measures; the agreement between the parties to arrange for family visits by land, in addition the existing air visit program.
The Polisario Front still needs some time to understand the reality and get out of the ideology it has adopted for a period of time. I think we are moving in the direction of reality it is better than engaging in useless talks.
- Declaration by the President of the Royal Advisory Council
for Saharan Affairs, at the press conference:
So far, there is nothing new other than the Moroccan project because Polisario’s project when discussed had nothing new. It was based on one thing, namely the referendum. Polisario’s project is based on referendum, while the Moroccan project is a comprehensive project aimed to resolve this issue which has more than one third of a century and which corresponds with reality.
Statement of the chairman of the Royal Advisory Council
for Saharan Affairs, outside the negotiations residence:
I do not see an important development during the fourth round, but this does not mean that I believe that a change will happen someday.
In response to the following question: Do you think that Polisario can take decisions in these negotiations?
Mr. President said: No, Polisario's decision boundaries are very limited, since Polisario is at the mercy of Algeria and exists on Algerian soil; it is funded by Algeria, directed by Algeria, then it the one who finances who governs
Exclusive interview by Mr. President of the Royal Advisory Council
for Saharan Affairs
to Aloula TV Channel after the conclusion of the fourth round
- Hassan Alqoatli: Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid member of the Moroccan delegation, four rounds now passed and the fifth is coming, your reading of the outcome of the fourth round?
- Khalihenna Ould Errachid: the fourth round can be described as the continuation of the previous rounds and, on the other hand, a basic round with regard to confirming positions of the parties. The Kingdom of Morocco stressed that its project is the backbone of this new process included in resolution 1754. There is no other project because Polisario did not present a negotiable project, only the option to return to the old process. The new Security Council resolutions called for the parties to enter into a new process based on negotiations without conditions, especially the search for the possibility of finding a political solution agreed upon. The only project which is in line with the UN spirit and text is the Moroccan project since it is first completely new; because it can be subject of negotiation, and it is the only project that can satisfy all parties, Morocco and the Polisario Front on the one hand, Algeria, on the other. Therefore, this fourth round in fact was for Polisario to see if Morocco is serious about its plan or not? We stressed that there is no option other than this option, then there is still room for negotiation with respect to subjecting the Polisario to reality. Over a third of a century resulted in failed projects. Now there is a new historic and realistic opportunity respecting the rights of all parties and international law and which is identical to the concept of self-determination, as stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations. We expect maturity from the Polisario and hope it can get rid of the remnants of the past, make decisions of its own and enter into real negotiations.
- Hassan Alqoatli: We note, Mr. Khalihenna, that Algeria does not want to play a strategic role in the negotiations to push them forward and prefers to stay as observer
- Khalihenna Ould Errachid: Algeria is shy in its positions with respect to the negotiations in Manhasset, first, because it does not speak, and then does not make enough pressure on the Polisario to enter, at least so far, to engage in serious negotiations. It is still in this position. In fact, it backs the other party in its diplomacy and mass media. We did not notice any big changes in Algeria's position with regard to earlier rounds. The problem now is how Polisario can accept the fact, how can Polisario retreat from the long years of imagination, years of lack of realism and unrealistic dreams, how can Polisario take advantage of this new process, and perform a historic act of reconciliation to find a solution to save the region from the scourge of fragmentation and division.
- Hassan Alqoatli: Among the topics discussed during this round, Mr. Khalihenna, topics related to confidence-building measures and exchange of family visits.
- Khalihenna Ould Errachid: Yes, this is true, measures to boost confidence between the parties is to try to find a solution, and of course Morocco, in line with the policy to promote all humanitarian action agreed to extend, particularly through land, humanitarian visits among families to revive ties among them and relieve our brothers sufferings in Tindouf.
- Hassan Alqoatli: Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid, member of the Moroccan delegation, thank you for this clarification.
- Khalihenna Ould Errachid: Thank you.
News and events concerning Western Sahara issue / Corcas