Talks to end Western Sahara dispute kick off in Geneva

By Bayram Altug

GENEVA (AA) – The first deliberations in six years to end the decades-long dispute in the Western Sahara region kicked off on Wednesday between regional countries mediated by the UN.

Former German President Horst Kohler, envoy of the UN secretary-general, commenced the roundtable meeting in Geneva to help achieve a "political, just, and lasting solution that provides for the self-determination of the Saharawi people."

The negotiations are being headed by the foreign ministers of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and the Polisario Front, a separatist group that calls for the independence of Morocco’s Western Sahara region on the northwest coast of Africa

The Western Sahara – a large territory in southern Morocco – has been the subject of dispute between Rabat and the Polisario Front for more than four decades.

After years of conflict, in 1991 the two parties signed a UN-backed cease-fire.

The Polisario, meanwhile, has long called for a popular referendum in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate.