Western Sahara UN envoy meets with POLISARIO in bid to break impasse

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s personal envoy on the issue, Peter van Walsum, held talks with the POLISARIO leadership and local elders in the Tindouf region of southern Algeria a day after discussions with King Mohammed VI of Morocco.The POLISARIO officials gave him a warm welcome and reiterated their confidence in the UN to enable the Saharawi people to exercise their right to self-determination without further delay, a UN spokesman said.Mr. van Walsum, a Dutch career diplomat who succeeded former envoy James A. Baker III in July and is on his first visit to the region, said there was consensus within the international community on the need to reach a solution to the Western Sahara issue as soon as possible.In his latest report to the Security Council in August, Mr. Annan said there had been no agreement on what could be done to overcome the deadlock over the peace plan, proposed in 2003 by Mr. Baker, which envisaged a period of transition during which there would be a division of responsibilities between Morocco and the POLISARIO before holding a referendum.The 14-year-old UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been monitoring a ceasefire between the two sides and seeking to organize a vote.Mr. van Walsum is also due to have talks with the leaders of Mauritania, which abandoned its claim to the territory on 1979, and Algeria.

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