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UN envoy meets with Polisario Front in Algeria

The UN's Western Sahara envoy, Staffan de Mistura met with representatives of the Polisario Front.

De Mistura met at a Sahrawi refugee camp with Khatri Addouh, the Polisario’s chief negotiator, and Omar Sidi Mohamed, the group’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

The camp is located in Tindouf, where the Polisario Front is based in far southwestern Algeria near the borders with Morocco and Western Sahara.

Announcing the visit on Friday, a UN spokeswoman said de Mistura was “looking forward to deepening consultations with all parties concerned on the prospect of constructively advancing the political process in Western Sahara”.

On Sunday, he is scheduled to hold talks with Polisario leader Brahim Ghali, the movement’s UN representative told AFP.

The Polisario Front wants an independent state in the Western Sahara, a vast stretch of mineral-rich desert that Morocco sees as a sovereign part of its own territory.

A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara sits on the western edge of the vast eponymous desert, stretching along the Atlantic coast.

When Spain withdrew in 1975, Morocco sent thousands of people across the border and claimed it was an integral part of its territory.

The following year the Polisario Front declared a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with support from Algeria and Libya, and demanded a referendum on self-determination.

Since then 84 UN member states have recognised the SADR.

The international community has long backed a referendum to be held to decide the territory’s status.

But Morocco rejects any vote in which independence is an option, arguing that only granting autonomy is on the table for the sake of regional security.

Trump agreed to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old dispute with Morocco pitted against the Polisario Front.

In a deal brokered by United States President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration, Morocco became the latest Arab country to normalise ties with Israel.

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