The Saharawi delegation consisted of Mahfoud Ali Beiba, leader, M'Hamed Khaddad, Brahim Ghali, Ahmed Boukhari, all members of the National Secretariat, as well as Radhi Sgheir Bachir, Presidential counsellor and Brahim Mokhtar, Polisario Front representative in London.
The Moroccan delegation, led by Mohamed Benaïssa and Ahmed El Midaoui, respectively Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Interior, comprised Ahmed Snoussi, permanent Moroccan representative at the UN, Mohamed Loulichki, coordinator with MINURSO, as well as five Saharawi, the two defectors, Brahim Hakim, roving ambassador of the King and Omar Hadrami, governor, Rachid Douihi, governor of the wilaya of El Ayoun (former member of PUNS, a party created by Spain in the Sahara before 1975), Khali Hana Ould Rachid, member of parliament and president of the Municipal Council of El Ayoun (former secretary general of PUNS, who defected to Morocco absconding with the party funds) and Ghailani Dlimi, governor in the Ministry of the Interior. These Saharawis did not have the right to speak.
The meeting began with a brief introduction by James Baker, after which the Algerian and Mauritanian delegations left the room. Benaïssa, Midaoui and Loulichki each presented one aspect of the Moroccan position, Ali Beiba, Khaddad and Boukhari replied. There was no discussion. Baker asked the two parties to draw up proposals for unblocking the situation, to be discussed at the next meeting at the beginning of June. The spokesman of the UN Secretary General confirmed this on 16 May.
Mahfoud Ali Beiba indicated that «we did not arrive at any concrete results». He denounced the «provocative» attitude of Morocco, which reverted to «the language of the past». «We did not feel from the Moroccan party any will to advance. We were surprised by the return to provocative talk which we thought was in the past». He strongly denounced «Morocco's volte-face with which the delegation hedged itself in with talk that didn't disguise its refusal of the referendum and the peace process».
Brahim Ghali stated to the Spanish daily paper La Razon that «we didn't speak of a third way, or a fourth way, but solely of the UN peace plan».
M'hammed Khaddad expressed the view that Morocco, «incapable of imposing a military solution, incapable of accepting the popular verdict of the ballot box, is seeking desperately to get out of the peace plan», one option which is encouraged by certain countries friendly to Morocco, which are trying to put in place «surrealist solutions», dreamt up in the 70s and which «ignore the wish for independence of the Saharawi people, on the pretext of securing the internal stability of Morocco».
Algérie Presse Service: «The meeting in London has shown clearly that it did not have the aim of taking on an alternative other than that drawn up in detail by the peace plan and Houston agreement».
The Algerian president, on an official visit to Montreal, expressed on 16 May his conviction that the conflict in Western Sahara must be settled by the United Nations: «I am delighted, he said, for the royal road for me - and this is not a play on words - is to come out through the big gate of international law, respecting the self-determination of peoples.»
No official reaction.
L'Opinion, the Istiqlal daily, 16.05.00: «After five hours of discussion in London on the Sahara, a heavy silence. The closed-door atmosphere having thus marked the meeting in London could mean that something delicate, or fragile is in preparation... The silence observed should be broken if gossip is to be prevented, which is not necessarily to the benefit of our cause... Moroccans have the right to know what is happening...»
La Gazette du Maroc, 17.05.00: «London: The Moroccans calm and determined. The Moroccan delegation is unmovable: no attack on national sovereignty.» (Press review of the French Embassy in Rabat).
OAU: Conference on the security, stability, development and cooperation in Africa.
The African ministers of foreign affairs in Abuja (Nigeria) called for «the completion of the decolonisation of Western Sahara by the rapid and strict implementation of the UN/OAU peace plan and the Houston agreements for Western Sahara». A delegation from SADR led by Mr Malainine Sadik, Minister of SADR in Algeria, took part in the proceedings. (Saharawi Ministry of Information)
With the aim of involving the European Union more in the search for a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in Western Sahara, members of the European movement of solidarity with the Saharawi people went to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In the course of personal contact with numerous parliamentarians, they suggested to the MEPs that they should invite James Baker to Strasbourg and send a mission of observation to the area. They drew their attention to the protection of the right of the Saharawi population in the occupied territories and to the worrying situation concerning food of the Saharawi refugees following delays in delivering EU humanitarian aid. Finally they asked them to include in economic agreements between Morocco and the EU, clauses preserving Saharawi interests. At the same time, about a hundred people held a demonstration within the Parliament precinct for a fair and lasting solution for Western Sahara based on respect for the right of self-determination. (communiqué)
Violent clashes set dozens of Saharawi students against the forces of order in the university campus of Marrakech. The students were protesting against police harassment of which a Saharawi woman student had been the victim. 36 Saharawi students were arrested (38 according to another source).
Saharawi students from the Mohamed V university in Rabat expressed solidarity the same evening with those of Marrakech. As in Marrakech, the police intervened and made 20 arrests (13 of which 12 were Saharawis according to another source).
On 19 May the police continued encircling the campuses of Marrakech and Rabat, after having requisitioned the rooms of Saharawi students. 31 people were summoned before the court for first offenders, another to the court of appeal (SPS)
For its part, the official Moroccan agency MAP announced a dozen arrests following the clashes which, it said resulted in several wounded, without making clear either the cause or the way in which they erupted. The Spanish daily El Pais reported the arrest of several Saharawi students «following a demonstration resulting in damage to cars and businesses.» Moroccan papers confirmed on 19 May, the events in Marrakech, denying any political aspect to them. Maroc Hebdo International wrote that a scuffle broke out between Saharawi students and a policeman, which degenerated into clashes with police «for several hours». «It was a long and brutal pitched battle», the weekly wrote, the students having erected barricades near the cité universitaire. According to MHI the persons arrested were sentenced on 18 May.
The French Association of Friends of SADR launched an appeal (french) to human rights organisations asking them to demand the release of those arrested.
Military manoeuvres are taking place in the region of Aghouenit (in the south east of Western Sahara), on the occasion of 20 May, anniversary of the start of the Polisario Front's armed struggle, in the presence of the President, representatives from the government, the parliament, the consultative council and various Saharawi political and social institutions. For the first time since the cease-fire, armoured vehicles are taking part. These manoeuvres aim to prepare the army for any eventuality, a military officer announced. (SPS)
The Secretary-General's reports to the Security Council on Western Sahara is due at the beginning of the week.
The Security Council will hold informal consultations on UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
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