WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

WEEKS 29-30 : 11.07.-24.07.2004

original french

SADR

13.07.04
The Minister Counselor to the Presidency responsible for Latin America, Ahmedu Suilem, on a visit to Panama, accompanied by the Saharawi Ambassador for this country Salama Taib, met the Panamanian Minister for Foreign Affairs Nivia Roxana Castrellon, who reiterated her country's support for "a referendum of self-determination for the Saharawi people", that might bring a rapid and just settlement to this conflict. (SPS)

REFERENDUM

11.07.04
"Holding the referendum of self-determination would plunge the Maghreb into a crisis"
"Towards a joint Franco-Spanish strategy"
The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs to El Mundo:
"At the moment, a referendum (in the Sahara) without a political solution would lead us into a situation of general crisis in North Africa", the Spanish minister for Foreign Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos affirmed in an interview with the Madrid daily "El Mundo".
Underlining that "there is no technical solution without a political solution", Mr Moratinos considers that "a political solution is what should stabilise North Africa and, consequently, resolve" the problem of the Sahara. He considered that "the historical moment has come for the parties to make an effort to find a satisfactory solution".
Mr Moratinos further argued for a Franco-Spanish "joint strategy" towards North Africa: "The rapprochement (of Spain) with France is also a rapprochement to conceive jointly a strategy with respect to North Africa, so that the message received in Algiers, Rabat and Tunis should be the same, whether it comes from Madrid or Paris". [Entrevista con Miguel Angel Moratinos, Pedro G. Cuartango, El Mundo, 11.07.04.
Transcription in Sahara-Info, Spanish ] - [Spain calls on France for common stand on North Africa , AFP, 11.07.04. ]

Saharawi Reaction

Sidati's Declaration, 12.07.04
The Saharawi Minister delegate for Europe, Mohamed Sidati, expressed his "astonishment and his anxiety" about Moratinos' declarations. He considered that "the role of the Spanish government is not to permit Morocco to infringe international law and get out of the referendum, but to require it to give up its delaying tactics and intransigent policy, in order that the Saharawi people can exercise freely their right to determine their future, so that international law should finally be devoted to Western Sahara in order to reinforce security and ensure stability for the benefit of all the peoples of the Maghreb." The intention of Spain to coordinate its actions with France is for Sidati "a further reason for concern. For we know the notorious position of unconditional support of France for the colonial aspirations of Morocco towards Western Sahara."

Diplomatic ballet

FRANCE-ALGERIA
12-13.07.04 Visit of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to Algiers "For a direct dialogue between Morocco and Algeria"
"... France thinks that a realistic political solution should be sought between the parties in the Western Sahara conflict, within the framework of the United Nations, and that nothing should be imposed on them. But we say also that a direct dialogue between Algeria and Morocco is necessary to encourage the emergence of this solution, taking account of the imperatives of regional stability and the interests of the two countries and the populations concerned. Imagination and boldness are needed to get over the obstacles inherited from the past." [Michel Barnier, French Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the Quotidien d'Oran, on the eve of his visit to Algeria, interview by Mounir Boudjemaâ,
Le Quotidien d'Oran, 11.07.04 ]
[Large press review in
French or Spanish ]

Saharawi reaction

The Ambassador of SADR in Algiers, Mohamed Yslem Beïssat: "the only remaining obstacle" for a just settlement of the conflict of Western Sahara is the "French position". "There is a problem between the emotional and the rational in the policy of Paris for the Maghreb", Mr Beïssat maintains, in noting that the latter should listen to the other chimes of the bell. "In Maghreb politics, Algeria has its word to say, Morocco has also its word to say and the Saharawis, even if theirs is a little country, have their word to say". [Hafida Ameyar, Liberté, Alger, 12.07.04]

SPAIN-ALGERIA

14.07.04
Visit of the Spanish Prime Minister to Algiers
"The Baker plan is not the only solution"
"The solution should be found through an agreed plan which respects the rights of all the partners".
During a press conference, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero declared that "the solution to this question (of the Sahara) should be found within the United Nations through a plan-agreement or "agreed plan" between all the partners, in order to satisfy the rights of all the parties", indicating that the "reference remains the road map, which is international law", and that there exists "a consensus to satisfy the aspirations of the Saharawi people". While reaffirming that the United Nations should be "the leaders of this process", Mr Zapatero declared himself "convinced" that a plan "will not work unless it enjoys the support of all the parties". "The Spanish government will work in this direction, he said, and will not spare any effort to reach a just and lasting solution which will allow the Saharawi people to see light at the end of the tunnel". Concerning the Baker Plan, Mr Zapatero, indicated that "we must not be bound by a plan, but we must not marginalise it either." In the final declaration, Algeria and Spain reaffirmed their attachment to a "just and lasting solution" to this conflict "within international law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, in particular Security Council resolutions 1495 and 1541 devoted to the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people".

Algeria: respect of the right to self-determination

The Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, for his part, underlined that "if we are invited to a meeting of good neighbours, within that context, we will take part. But if it is to talk about Western Sahara, then in that case, the place of Algeria must be taken by the Polisario Front", recalling thus the "constant position of Algeria" namely the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. "Algeria can help to find any solution which takes on board the rights of the Saharawi people, and which is accepted by them. But we cannot be a substitute for that people."

Comments

"What is bizarre, is that the Spain of today, democratic and socialist, adopts the same position as that of Franco's government, 40 years later, even though recourse to a referendum is the absolute democratic expression" [SADR Ambassador to Algiers, Mohamed Beissat, Le Matin, Alger, 18.07.04.]

The daily El Mundo considers the media driven trip to Algiers of Mr Zapatero "an 180º turn in Spanish politics". The attitude of the successor of José Maria Aznar is described as disloyal in regard to Western Sahara. This new fact which, according to the Spanish press, intends to create a Madrid-Paris axis supporting Rabat's expansionist desires, has not left the political classes indifferent. The first alert was registered by the principal opposition party, the Popular Party (PP).

Demonstrations: Hundreds of people demonstrate on 17 July in Tenerife, three thousand people in Barcelona the next day, in favour of a referendum of self-determination in Western Sahara. (AFP)

Several Spanish political parties are asking for clarification from their central government as well as regional autonomous governments.

SPAIN-UN
15.07.04
The UN special representative for Western Sahara Alvaro De Soto meets the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Moratinos, in Madrid.

FRANCE-ALGERIA

Visit of the French Minister for Defence to Algiers
17-18.07.04
Franco-Algerian military agreement, and more?
During his official visit to Algeria, the French Minister of Defence announced the conclusion in the coming Autumn of a global agreement of military cooperation with Algeria. It is also a question of enlarging the military partnership with all the countries of the Maghreb with a meeting, coming up of the 4+3 bringing together the countries of the northern seaboard of the Mediterranean (France, Italy, Spain and Portugal) and three countries of the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia).

18.07.04
Declaration of the SADR government
In a meeting chaired by the Head of State, Mohamed Abdelaziz, the Council of Ministers considered that "the referendum of self-determination remains the only rapid and viable solution for a lasting settlement of the conflict". He condemned "the new Franco-Moroccan plot aiming to substitute for international law and for the relevant UN resolutions some vain attempts to legalise the colonial fait accompli of Western Sahara, which would generate instability in the region" and regrets that "France, the cradle of human rights and democracy, which is taking pains to support law in Iraq, is bent on pursuing double standards with its policy for a resolution of the conflict in Western Sahara, by demeaning the Saharawi people." (SPS)

MOROCCO-ALGERIA
Visit of the Moroccan Minister of the Interior to Algiers
20-21.07.04
The Moroccan Minister of the Interior carried out a two-day working visit in Algiers devoted to bilateral relations between Morocco and Algeria, including, according to Rabat, the question of Western Sahara (
AFP). Communiqué commun (El Moudjahid)

On this occasion, the Algerian minister of Foreign Affairs made public a solemn declaration in which he reaffirms "the attachment of Algeria to international and African law concerning the question of Western Sahara". He considers "that it is a question of decolonisation to complete on the basis of the right of peoples to determine their own future through the scrupulous and diligent implementation of the Baker plan and of peace for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara". "Algeria, which holds the greatest respect for the brother Moroccan people, reaffirms that it is only with the Polisario Front leadership that peace will be made and to look for a substitute interlocutor, to wit Algeria, would only lead to an impasse. [Full text engl.by SPS]

MAURITANIA-SPAIN
20.07.04
The Mauritanian president, Maaouiya Ould Taya, received in Nouakchott a Spanish special envoy who handed him a "message of friendship" of Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero (AMI).

SPAIN-UN
21.07.04
The Spanish minister of Foreign Affairs had talks in New York with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and presented to him the Spanish position on Western Sahara.

20.07.04
Spanish "new plan"?
The Moroccan daily Aujourd'hui le Maroc publishes, without indicating any source, a settlement plan based on international law, popular legitimacy and sponsorship of the countries of the region, attributed to Zapatero. The solution proposed consists of according to the Sahara "enlarged" autonomy under Moroccan "sovereignty", as Baker had proposed in his famous Framework Agreement (Baker Plan 1). Madrid apparently proposes that this autonomy should be the result of a pact negotiated between Morocco and the Polisario, ratified by the United Nations and followed by the organisation of a referendum on the acceptance of the said status without any reference to the option of independence. The Zapatero Plan provides for Algeria joining the club of countries sponsoring the agreement with the United States, France and Spain.[Moroccan Sahara : A plan signed Zapatero (
french), Aujourd'hui le Maroc, 20.07.04.]

Denial?
The head of the Spanish Government, José Luis Zapatero, has "no plan" to settle the conflict in Western Sahara, a government source declared on 20 July in Madrid. (
AFP) But there has not really been an official denial.

MOROCCO

16-18.07.04
Casablanca
Extract of the final statement from the first congress of Annahj Addimocrati (The Democratic Way) which was not authorised by the Moroccan authorities until the last minute...
"The first congress affirms the necessity of finding a solution to the problem of the Sahara on the basis of international law and the principle of self-determination of peoples by taking the route of negotiations and peaceful solutions to avoid war for the peoples of the region."(corr.)

MOROCCO-USA

22.07.04
FTA does not include the Western Sahara.
The free trade agreement between the USA and Morocco has been approved by the Congress. In a statement http://www.house.gov/pitts/press/releases/040722r-FTAwsahara.htm , Congressman Joe Pitts pointed out that he voted in favour of it, only after making clear that the agreement does not apply to goods and services which originate in Western Sahara, which Morocco has illegally occupied.
>> See:
Letter to Congressman Pitts, by Robert Zoellick, the United States Trade Representative: "The Administration's position on Western Sahara is clear: sovereignty of Western Sahara is in dispute, and the United States fully supports the United Nations' efforts to resolve this issue. The United States and many other countries do not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and have consistently urged the parties to work with the United Nations to resolve the conflict by peaceful means."
>> See:
Statement Mohamed Sidati, 24.07.04.

HUMANITARIAN AID

22.07.04
he European Commission approved humanitarian aid of eight million euros for the Saharawi refugees in the four camps south of Tindouf.[
ECHO/AP/Eurofunding: 8 million Euro in humanitarian aid to Sahrawi refugees in Algeria, Sahara update, 24.07.04 ] [see also ECHO's Photo gallery Sarahouis]

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