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UN Security Council calls for W.Sahara talks, renews mission

A Sahrawi nomad feeds cattle on the outskirts of Boujdour refugee camp, Algeria, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.   -  
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Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Western Sahara

The UN Security Council on Friday called on all sides to resume negotiations toward a solution in Western Sahara as it renewed a UN mission in the disputed territory for one year.

The resolution was spearheaded by the United States, which under former president Donald Trump broke with the world to recognize Morocco's claim to the territory as it persuaded the kingdom to normalize relations with Israel.

The resolution -- which does not recognize Moroccan sovereignty -- passed the Security Council with abstentions from Tunisia and Russia.

Weeks after the appointment of a new UN envoy on Western Sahara, veteran diplomat Staffan de Mistura, the resolution called for "the parties" to resume negotiations "without preconditions and in good faith" in search of a "just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution."

The resolution calls for a goal of "self-determination of the people of Western Sahara," a phrase that diplomats said was added by the United States at the behest of Russia, which could have vetoed the text.

The resolution also "reaffirms the need for full respect" of a ceasefire that collapsed last year.

Algeria backs the independence-seeking Polisario Front and in August broke off relations with Morocco, which controls nearly 80 percent of the arid and sparsely populated territory controlled by Spain until 1975.

Roundtable talks were last held in early 2019 that brought together the Polisario and Morocco as well as Algeria.

But Algeria earlier this month voiced its "formal and irreversible rejection" of talks in a roundtable format.

The Polisario sees itself as a liberation movement that should negotiate directly with Rabat.

But Rabat considers the Polisario an Algerian proxy.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita welcomed the text Friday, saying it "specifies the real parties to the conflict by calling for Algeria to take part responsibly and constructively".

The Polisario's UN envoy Sidi Omar tweeted that "there will be no new ceasefire as long as Morocco persists in its attempts to forcibly impose a colonial fait accompli in the Occupied Territories of the Sahrawi Republic".

France's UN envoy, Nicolas de Riviere, said that the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINURSO, remained vital in uncertain security conditions.

"More than ever since the breaking of the ceasefire, this operation plays an essential role in limiting the risks of an escalation and in bringing stability in the region," he said.

Kenya, the current president of the Security Council, voiced hope that the UN mission could eventually organize a referendum, saying it was the right of every nation that was formerly colonized.

"We must be honest and admit that this goal is being obscured and frustrated," the Kenyan mission said in a statement.

MINURSO was established by the Security Council in 1991 with an aim of establishing a referendum between independence and joining Morocco.