Algiers – Sofiane SiyoucefAlgerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika has said that Western Sahara’s people should decide for themselves whether to be independent or subject to Morocco’s rule.
The comment is perceived as an implicit rebuke to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s praise of a Moroccan plan to give the area autonomy but still keep it under its control.
Morocco annexed the mineral-rich territory in 1975 and then fought against the rebel Polisario Front (PF) until a truce in 1991.
UN-supervised talks on a potential referendum on independence have since yielded nothing.
Morocco has offered wide-ranging autonomy, and in Rabat on Sunday, Clinton called the plan “serious, realistic and credible.”
But Bouteflika reiterated his country’s backing of the PF’s desire for a referendum. He expressed hope UN talks be restarted.
He also insisted that his country was committed to the implementation of UN resolutions on decolonisation, while expressing hope that negotiations between the Moroccan Kingdom and the PF would continue.
Greeting Polisario head Mohamed Abdelaziz on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is recognised only by Algeria, Bouteflika said that the commemoration, a day after the 13th PF conference, also gives Algiers the chance to declare its support for international efforts to decide on the fate of the Sahrawi people.
Bouteflika said he hoped the series of informal meetings initiated by the UN envoy to resume negotiations between Morocco and the PF would be successful.
« Algeria, being a neighbouring country, encourages both parties to continue with the dialogue and intensify it, out of respect to the international legitimacy to reach a solution which determines the fate of the Sahrawi people, » said the Algerian president.
Meanwhile, Sahrawi Prime Minister Abdelkader Taleb Omar called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her North African tour to acknowledge the Sahrawi problem.
He added that respecting the Sahrawi people’s right to determine their own fate was fundamental to establishing an Arab Maghreb Union.
“If we want to build an Arab Maghreb Union, the Sahrawi people’s right and aspirations have to be respected, and the solution based on international law has to be defended while refusing double standards,” he said.
For her part, Clinton stated during a joint press conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Saaeddine Othmani on Sunday in Rabat, that the US “supports efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Sahara issue.”
Clinton praised the efforts of the special envoy of the UN Secretary General, Christopher Ross, in talks aiming to resolve this issue.
Arabs Today, 27/2/2012