Sides unable to solve differences over Western Sahara, UN says
( dpa ) - Two days of intensive negotiations on Western Sahara ended Wednesday, with the main parties remaining far apart with differences on how to settle the sovereignty dispute over the territory, the United Nations said.
"During the two days of discussions, the parties continued to express strong differences on the fundamental questions at stake," the UN said in a statement after both Morocco and the Polisario failed to relent on their claim over the former Spanish territory known as Western Sahara.
Morocco, after wanting to integrate Western Sahara for decades, last year accepted giving the territory autonomous status. The Polisario, once an armed rebel group with support from Algeria, wanted the territory to become an independent nation, but said autonomy should be decided by a popular referendum.
The UN said, however, that the two sides reiterated their commitment to show the political will to negotiate in good faith and to move to a "more intensive and substantive phase." The sides agreed to hold a fourth round of talks March 11-13 in New York.
"In addition, the parties discussed, but did not agree on confidence-building measures," the statement said.
Dutch diplomat Peter van Walsum mediated the session in Manhasset, a Long Island town near New York City, which began on Tuesday under the urging of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to settle their differences. Envoys from Algeria and Mauritania also attended.
Ban said in a statement Tuesday that "it will take both time and patience to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to this longstanding dispute."
"I appeal to the parties to make full use of this week's round of talks to begin moving into a more intensive and substantive phase of discussions," he said.