"We urge you, individuals and groups, to respond positively to this call,", reads a statement published by CORCAS, made up of Sahrawi dignitaries, at the end of its second regular session, held on December 17-18 in the southern city of Smara (1150km south of Rabat).
They urged the Polisario leadership not to "miss this historic opportunity because autonomy is the final solution to achieve reconciliation and the return in dignity."
Dubbed "Smara Declaration", the statement underlines that "this historic and courageous initiative is the best way to settle this conflict that has too long lasted and is the only feasible option within the context of international legality.”
In a bid to break the stalemate, Morocco has proposed an initiative to grant substantial autonomy to its southern provinces, the Sahara. A former Spanish colony, the Sahara was ceded to Morocco by Spain under the 1975 Madrid Accords. However, the Polisario, backed by Algeria, Morocco’s eastern neighbor, claims sovereignty over the territory and seeks independence as a main option.
CORCAS members seized this opportunity to “reaffirm their pride for having fully particuipated in elaborating the Moroccan autonomy initiative and accompanied it through all stages,” underlining that this proposal is meant to “put an end to the stalemate in the Sahara dispute, after the international community has concluded the inapplicability of all previous obsolete plans.”
CORCAS also calls on Polisario leadership to stop “fallacious slogans and obsolete ideological stances that serve only the interests of the enemies that nurture hatred towards Morocco and spare no means to destabilize the region.”
There are parties within Polisario, which have “reached a level of maturity to work towards adopting Morocco’s autonomy proposal, as aspired by the majority of Sahrawis,” CORCAS head, Khalli Henna Ould Errachid, told the press.
In this respect, he recalled that participants in the Gjijimat congress (near the buffer zone of Tifariti), some of whom belong to Polisario, called for adherence to the Moroccan initiative, underlining that autonomy guarantees the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Saharawis.
Morocco and the Polisario are expected to hold a third round of UN-led talks in Manhasset, New York January 7-9. The two previous rounds were held in June and August and were attended by Algeria and Mauritania as observers.
Held under the theme “Autonomy as a Final Solution to Achieve Reconciliation and Dignified Return to the Homeland,” the CORCAS’ session addressed several development-related issues concerning the Southern provinces such as transport network, infrastructure and communications.
Set up in March 2006, the CORCAS is a body dedicated to the economic and social development of the Southern Provinces and the safeguard of the cultural identity of the Sahara region.