Some 170 participants met in Manchester, UK, from 9 to 11 October 1998 for the 24th European Co-ordinating Conference of support to the Saharawi people. The participants represented a wide spectrum of countries, including Germany, Belgium, Canada, Spain, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Norway, United States, Switzerland, Sweden, Algeria as well as the Polisario Front. The presence and the contribution of Mme Danielle Mitterrand, president of France Liberte Foundation, increased the profile of the Conference.
The participants to the 24th Conference thank the City of Manchester, in particular the Lord Mayor, Western Sahara Campaign UK, and all the supporters and activists who have contributed to the success of the conference.
In workshops the participants examined the essential issues of European solidarity:
The Conference reminds the United Nations and the OAU of their responsibilities to put an end to the last colony in Africa. The resolutions and the mandates are unambiguous: the Peace Plan agreed by Security Council resolution 658 in 1990 and 690 in 1991, no less than eight years ago, should be implemented within six months. The negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr James Baker, relaunched the peace plan and fixed the terms and conditions for the referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people.
By accepting for the nth time the postponement of the referendum, the United Nations and the OAU have failed in their duty to the Saharawi people and not acted strongly against the Moroccan authorities who have tried by all possibly means to prevent the holding of a free, honest and transparent referendum in the Western Sahara.
The Conference supports the United Nations and the Special Envoy, Mr James Baker, whose mediation must ensure that the Houston Agreement is upheld and the referendum date is finally fixed within the next six months.
The participants to the conference in Manchester believe that in the event of failure of his mediation the United Nations should recognise the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic as a full member, and force Morocco to respect the decision taken 14 years ago by the OAU to accept the SADR as a member of the community of African states,
Europe has welcomed the coming to power of Mr Youssoufi, who is respected for his struggle for decolonization in his country and in Africa, and for his condemnation of apartheid in South Africa and human rights violations in his own country. Today, however, the new democratic forces in power in Morocco refuse to address the illegal occupation of Western Sahara as a colonial question. They violate the human rights of their fellow countrymen and of the Saharawis. Their refusal to authorise the return of Abraham Serfaty is only the most visible of these violations.
Europe, concerned about its relations with the new government of Mr Youssoufi, forgets to condemn Morocco for its violations of human rights. Its silence and its lack of commitment to the Baker Plan for a solution to the conflict in the Western Sahara, as well as its lack of active backing for the UN Peace Plan, represent serious failures to respect the rights of the Saharawi people.
Europe must play an active part alongside the United Nations and MINURSO as only the solution envisaged by the Peace Plan et the Houston agreement can bring peace and stability to the Maghreb region and the Mediterranean, leading to the political, economic and commercial Cupertino amongst all the countries of the region. Conversely, the absence of a peaceful solution and of the respect for the rights of the Saharawi people will lead inevitably to new violence, which is against the democratic interests of the people of the region and of Europe.
In consultation with the Association of International Jurists of Western Sahara, the Conference has studied and implemented an important programme of monitoring of the preparation for, the realisation of and the follow up to the referendum in the Western Sahara. The two centres of European co-ordination for the national committees of observers in Brussels and in Las Palmas as well as the International Observatory of the Referendum in Western Sahara in Geneva will be the axis of the European co-ordination of support to the Saharawi people during the next year.
The Conference strongly reaffirms its support to the struggle of the Saharawi people, who alone have the right to determine their destiny. It sends its thanks to the Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mohammed Abdelaziz, for his message of encouragement and reiterates its full and total solidarity to the Saharawi people.
The 25th European Co-ordinating Conference of support to the Saharawi people will be held in November 1999 in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, and in El Ayoun in Western Sahara.