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Latest round of UN-backed Western Sahara talks concludes in New York

The fifth round of United Nations-backed informal talks on the dispute over Western Sahara ended on Sunday with Morocco and the Frente Polisario agreeing to continue their discussions in March.

Although the discussions took place in an atmosphere of “serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect,” according to a communiqué issued in New York, “each party continues to reject the proposal of the other as a sole basis for future negotiations.”

The UN has been involved in efforts towards a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.

Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory's final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.

Delegations from the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, were also present at the opening and closing sessions of the three-day talks, which were held outside New York City at the invitation of the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross.

The communiqué noted that the parties welcomed the resumption of flights aimed at connecting Sahrawi refugees living in camps in Algeria's Tindouf region with their relatives in the territory of Western Sahara.

As agreed during the third round of informal talks, the four delegations intend to meet with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva in early February to review the implementation of the Plan of Action for the Confidence Building Measures and to advance the implementation of family visits by road.

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