25th European Conference of coordination of the support to the Saharawi people

Meeting in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria from 5-7 November 1999, the 25th Conference of Support for the Saharawi People brought together 300 participants from Algeria, Austria, Belgium, East Timor, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Mauritania, Mozambique, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA and Western Sahara.

The conference welcomed a large delegation from the Polisario Front led by its President, Mohamed Abdelaziz, as well as different personalities among them the Nobel Peace Prize winner, José Ramos Horta, Algerian representatives, ANC and Frelimo delegates and the honorable US Congressman, Donald Payne.

The participants of the 25th Conference thank the authorities of Gran Canaria, the whole team around Carmelo Ramirez as well as FEDISSAH and all those who contributed to the success of this great 25th Conference.

The conference of Las Palmas defined a framework of an ambitious and urgent international involvement  in order to respond to the new challenges of our solidarity, taking account of the dramatic development of the situation in Western Sahara, illustrated by the recent brutal events in the territories occupied by Morocco.

The conference denounced the unprecedented repression carried out on Saharawi citizens.   Morocco, the occupying power, practises on a large scale, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, abductions, and expulsions from the territory.

Little by little the press and the international community get information about the repressive drift organised in order to subdue, in the most brutal manner and in violation of every rule of international law, the just protest of the Saharawis to counter the degrading behaviour which the occupying forces make them undergo.

The conference makes an urgent appeal to the UN Secretary General  and the Security Council, to Europe, both the European Union and the Council of Europe, and to the Organisation of African Unity to react firmly to put an end to such actions.   The international community should, without delay, also take new  initiatives necessary to bring to its conclusion the peace plan adopted by the resolutions of the Security Council in 1991 and which created a framework for its implementation and fixed its timetable, which were acceptedby the two parties, the Polisario Front and Morocco, at the time of the Houston agreements led by Mr James Baker, personal envoy of the Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

Encouraged and enlightened by the referendum of self-determination gaining independence for East Timor, the European conference recalls that the only legal way forward is a free, fair and transparent referendum, respecting the will of the Saharawi people and its bid for peace and coexistence with all the other peoples in the region.   The referendum constitutes the sole acceptable solution after 25 years of war, military occupation and popular repression by the Moroccan Government.

As the Nobel Prize winner, Ramos Horta, very aptly expressed it, "the Moroccan Government should draw lessons from the situation in East Timor.   There is still time for the young Monarch, Mohamed VI to accept the solution of law for the Saharawi people and to take urgent initiatives to put an end to the repression, the occupation and pillage of the Sahara, in order to follow the recommendations of the Secretary General of the United Nations, the only way to avoid humiliation and dishonour in the Western Sahara."   The new King of Morocco has the opportunity to make the gesture which will restore prestige to Morocco and will permit him to save the human cost and spoilage involved in the conflict in Western Sahara.

The conference at Las Palmas recalls that the only credible alternative, in circumstances where Morocco persists in its stubborn occupation of the Sahara is to follow the decision taken 15 years ago by the Organisation of African Unity and more than 72 countries to recognise the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and to welcome it as of right into the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Europe and the European Union in particular, who have with Morocco important relations of economic cooperation and assistance is bound by the Barcelona agreement to make this aid and cooperation conditional upon Morocco's respect of human rights both in its territory and in the illegally occupied Saharawi territories.   Spain, as the colonial power assumes historically the pre-eminent responsibility of reminding Morocco of its international obligations.

The recent report of Amnesty International on the violation of human rights in Western Sahara obliges the Council of Europe to react without leniency towards Morocco.   The European Union, negotiating with Morocco for the renewal of the fishing agreements, has the duty to exclude the Saharawi coast from any agreement protocol and to assure the protection of Saharawi fisheries.

In conformity with the resolutions of the European Parliament, and those of European NGOs, the big international liberal, socialist, united left-wing groups, but also in accordance with the declaration of 21 June 1999 of the Presidency in the name of the European Union, Europe must act in accordance with its own resolutions.   Without exception they recognise the right to a free, fair and transparent referendum for the Saharawi people and lend their support to the statements of the Secretary General of the United Nations in order to implement without delay, respecting the timetable set on 28 April 1999, the definitive settlement plan.   Beyond these declarations, the European Union and the Commission of the Parliament must play an active role and support more firmly the United Nations and MINURSO.   Additional means must be mobilised within ECHO, from the management of Human Rights and from the management of the Common Foreign and Security Policy to sustain the Saharawi populations deprived of access to the resources of their own country, to meet their essential needs and ensure their proper protection.

The conference met in different workshops with the aim of defining a calendar and programme of action for the mobilisation of public opinion and that of the press in the support of the just cause of the Saharawis.   Besides the mobilisation of political and trade union forces,  particular attention was paid to the preparation of national observer groups in European countries and in the USA to observe the referendum process before, during the identification process, during the vote and afterwards.   The conference demands that from today independent observers and representatives of the press should be able to move freely in the territories occupied by Morocco under UN protection.   We must put an end to the suffering of the Saharawi people and the law of silence imposed by Morocco.   One ad hoc  workshop gave urgent attention to the protection of Saharawi human rights in the present situation and put in place an international system of alert.   These two workshops, observers and human rights, benefited from the expertise of the Commission of International Jurists which held its congress in parallel with the work of the 25th Conference of EUCOCO.   Material and humanitarian aid was the subject treated by all the medical and humanitarian associations, specialist international NGOs in order to draw up with the Saharawi Minister of Cooperation priorities for health, transport, education, communication, agriculture and gardens, equipment and energy as preparation for the return to the liberated territories.

In closing its work, the conference reaffirmed with force its support of the struggle of the Saharawi people and of the Polisario Front, as alone fit to determine Saharawi destiny.   It addresses to the whole Saharawi people and in particular to the Saharawi women and its brother organisations, fraternal greetings of its unfailing solidarity.

To accompany and coordinate the action of solidarity of the committees and associations of support, the youth and women's organisations, those of the twin towns and regions, to ensure liaison with different national observer groups for the referendum, with the parliamentary intergroups and the UN, and with other international initiatives of support for the Saharawi people in the USA, in Africa particularly, the conference renews the EUCOCO Task Force which will work in liaison with the delegated Saharawi Minister for Europe, Mr Sidati.

The 26th Conference of the European Coordination of Support for the Saharawi People will take place in Brussels in October 2000.

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