Global Policy Forum

Proposals to Resolve the Conflict in the Western Sahara


By Adil Dekkaki

April 17, 2007

The United Nations will hear proposals from Morocco and the Polisario Front on how to settle the dispute over Western Sahara. A brief look at the plans put forth by the two sides.

The UN Security Council is set to decide on Western Sahara, the territory disputed between Morocco and the Polisario Front. The UN will examine proposals to settle the dispute and determine whether it will lengthen the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). On April 10th the Polisario Front submitted a plan to the UN and the following day Morocco submitted its proposal to resolve the decades-old dispute.

The Security Council will hold two meetings on the proposals and the future of the MINURSO mandate, which is currently set to expire on April 30th. The first meeting on Friday (April 20th) will consist of a closed door session of nations which have contributed forces to the MINURSO mission, followed by an open session the same day. The Council will hold another meeting on April 27th to vote on the two issues.

The Moroccan Initiative

Morocco's proposal calls for Western Sahara to receive autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. It gives Sahrawis the right to run their own affairs by setting up legislative, executive and judicial bodies which "enjoy exclusive powers", according to a draft copy of the proposal. It offers respect for their cultural and social characteristics, but considers Western Sahara a region of Morocco under the sovereignty of the Moroccan kingdom.

Morocco's plan would provide for a local government and judiciary with a high level of autonomy, but ultimately answerable to the Moroccan government and king. Final decisions on national security, defence, territorial integrity, foreign relations and the judicial system would remain within the jurisdiction of the Moroccan government. The initiative states that, "Morocco pledges to negotiate in good faith and in constructive open spirit to reach a final, mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute plaguing the region." The plan also notes that if the Polisario Front accepts the Moroccan proposal, Morocco will allow for a referendum on the proposal, but not on the question of independence.

The Polisario Front Plan

In its plan, the Polisario Front holds fast to its call for a popular referendum on self-determination for the Western Sahara. The Polisario plan views the referendum as the sole solution to the conflict, emphasizing that there is no alternative. The Polisario asserts that its plan is bound by international law, previous UN Security Council resolutions and the Front's prior agreements with Morocco. In its plan the Polisario underscores its desire to reach a mutually acceptable, negotiated solution. The Polisario Front's plan is based on co-operation with Morocco in the economic, security and social spheres. A Polisario Front official who wished to remain anonymous said that the Front's plan indicates the Polisario's readiness for good neighbourliness and strategic relations with Morocco.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will study the two proposals and present them to member nations of the UN Security Council. One Arab satellite channel quoted Ban Ki-moon as saying it was unlikely that a solution to the Western Sahara conflict would be reached in the near future due to the large discrepancies between the Moroccan and Polisario Front positions.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on the Western Sahara


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