News / Africa

US Compromise Paves Way for Extended UN Mission in W. Sahara

Moroccans protest against U.S.-backed plans to broaden the mandate of UN peacekeepers in disputed Western Sahara, Casablanca, April 22, 2013.
Moroccans protest against U.S.-backed plans to broaden the mandate of UN peacekeepers in disputed Western Sahara, Casablanca, April 22, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— The United States has dropped demands for human rights observers in Western Sahara, diplomats said on Tuesday, paving the way for a compromise that would allow the U.N. mission in the disputed territory to be extended for another year.
        
Western Sahara, a tract of desert the size of Britain that has lucrative phosphate reserves and potentially offshore oil, is the focus of Africa's longest-running territorial dispute, between Morocco and pro-independence Polisario guerrillas.

A U.S.-drafted resolution that proposed installing United Nations peacekeepers to monitor human rights abuses had angered Morocco, and taken its traditional protector France by surprise.

"There will be a resolution very soon for a new mandate of the MINURSO," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters, referring to the mission's acronym. "We are close to a solution that will satisfy everybody."

Lalliot declined to comment on the details of the resolution, which was due to be voted on April 25. But three Western diplomats said Washington had withdrawn the demand after its resolution was reviewed by a group of countries including the United States, France, Spain, Britain and Russia.

"The Moroccans will be satisfied," said one diplomat.

A U.N. Security Council diplomat said that the draft resolution contained more human rights language than previous years, describing it as a "step forward."

It encourages enhanced efforts and progress on human rights, but does not propose that U.N. peacekeepers monitor them, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The United States' U.N. mission had no immediate comment.

The dispute dates back to 1975 and pits Morocco, which asserts that the region to its south is part of its territory, against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement. Morocco holds about 80 percent of the territory and the Polisario the rest, including refugee camps.

Europe and the United States say their worry is that the conflict is souring relations between Morocco and Algeria and preventing them from working together against Islamist violence.

While allegations of abuse have lessened since a 1975-1991 war, rights groups like Amnesty International accuse Morocco of continuing to use excessive force against demonstrators and activists and repressing political freedom, among other abuses.
        
Morocco and France, its former colonial ruler, have resisted the idea of peacekeepers reporting on rights abuses in Western Sahara, and Paris has long supported Rabat's position due to historical and business relations.

The United Nations brokered a ceasefire settlement in 1991 between Morocco and the Polisario with the understanding that a referendum would be held on the region's fate. But the referendum never took place and attempts to reach a lasting deal have foundered.

A Moroccan official, who confirmed the latest U.N. draft would "encourage human rights", said he expected Algeria and Polisario allies to lobby for changes in the next two days.

A senior Polisario official told Reuters the group was struggling to prevent its youth from taking up arms after seeing years of failed talks and ongoing rights abuses.

"This [compromise] is a big mistake that shows to the Sahrawis that their pacifism isn't leading to anything. It's a shame," said Paris-based Omar Mansour, a member of the Polisario's National Secretariat decision-making body.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the conflict in Mali, where France deployed troops and air power to oust Islamist rebels, threatens to spill into Western Sahara.

You May Like

China Rejects Obama’s Stance on Japan Island Dispute

Obama told Japanese newspaper that Washington would come to Tokyo's defense if there is ever a conflict over islands in East China Sea, which China also claims as its own More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Algerian American from: Algiers
April 25, 2013 4:49 AM
Good news that the US envoy has put human rights on the agenda.
But the USA should stick to their guns and not be swayed by the small narco state of Morocco.


Morocco is one of the largest drug producers in the world, and their monarch is nothing but a drug king pin and a murderer. The people of Western Sahara should be allowed to vote for independence in a free and transparent referendum. If not they WILL resort to war. The United States of America should uphold the sacred values of freedom and human rights and never give up.

In Response

by: ex guerrier des sables from: moon
April 26, 2013 12:36 AM
1963!!!!! i think you should read about what s happened to your grand parents in 1963( la guerre des sables),,,,a seconde version of this war will freed algerian people from being slaves to the military. besides ,our hearts are with the free kabily country

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid