Morocco's government and separatists from Western Sahara have begun a second round of talks in the United States on the contested territory's future.

United Nations mediator Peter van Walsum told delegates Friday the Security Council expects them to make progress in solving their 32-year dispute.

Negotiations are taking place at a private estate in the U.S. state of New York and are due to end Saturday.

Morocco and Polisario Front rebels from Western Sahara held their first direct negotiations in seven years at the same venue in June.

Since then, both sides have stuck to their opposing positions. Morocco is offering limited autonomy for Western Sahara, which it occupied and annexed after Spanish colonizers left in 1975.

Polisario Front rebels are demanding a referendum with a choice of autonomy or independence.

Washington backed Morocco's autonomy offer last month. But, other U.N. Security Council members say independence for Western Sahara must remain an option.