WEEK 22, 27.05-02.06.1996

Spain's Prime Minister visit to Morocco.

Jose Maria Aznar, who has stressed that relations with Morocco have a high priority, conferred with King Hassan on his first trip abroad since becoming government's head. Aznar told the Moroccan monarch that Spain backs Rabat's offer to host the second Euro-Mediterranean conference. He promises to ease Moroccan debt and ended two days of intensive talks with Moroccan leaders with a pledge to press ahead with plans to build a tunnel linking their countries. He also said the foreign ministers of both countries had been asked to head a joint commission to see how to ease Morocco's debt to Spain, estimated at $2 billion. On the question of the Western Sahara, Aznar repeated his country's backing for a U.N. referendum to resolve the fate of the former Spanish territory.

EU-Morocco agreement

In prevision of the vote of the European Parliament about the EU-Morocco accord the MEP's opinions are controversial. While the majority of European Parliament's foreign affairs committee voted on 28.5. in favour of a wide-ranging accord, Parliaments developping Committee voted on the same day to withold approval until the EU obtained guarantees that the Rabat government would respect UN resolutions on Western Sahara and improve respect for human rights before the agreement came into force. EU ministers cannot sign the proposed pact, COM(95)740, which is similar to association agreements already signed with Tunisia and Israel, unless it is backed by a majority of MEPs.


U.N. Security Council Resolution on Western Sahara
The Security Council, in its unanimous resolution adopted without debate, accepted the secretary-general's recommendation to suspend voter identification "until such time as both parties provide concrete and convincing evidence that they are committed to resuming and completing it without further obstacles."
Boutros-Ghali said in his report that more than 60,000 voter applicants had been identified so far, though more than 156,000 remained to be processed. The council also supported his recommendation for a 20 percent reduction in MINURSO's military component, from 288 observers to 230. All but a handful of some 40 U.N. civilian police will also be withdrawn. But a U.N. political office will be retained to continue a dialogue with the two sides and try to resolve differences. The council approved another six-month renewal of the pared-down MINURSO, until Nov. 30. Morocco and Polisario were called on to continue respecting the ceasefire and to demonstrate goodwill by cooperating with the United Nations in carrying out certain aspects of its plan for the territory, such as the release of Saharan political prisoners and the exchange of prisoners of war on humanitarian grounds. Both sides were reminded that, in the absence of significant progress in the coming months, the council "will have to consider other measures, including possible further reductions in the strength of MINURSO." Boutros-Ghali was asked to continue his efforts to break the deadlock and to submit a report by Aug. 31. His next report on the overall Western Sahara operation is due by Nov. 10.

The Polisario Front hinted that it would resort to war rather than let Morocco retain control over the territory in the absence of a political solution. "The Polisario Front will never accept, under any circumstances, the imposition of a colonial fait accompli by the maintenance of the status quo through the U.N.-monitored ceasefire," the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) said in a statement. "The next few weeks will show the seriousness of the will, or lack of it, to resolve the obstacles to the U.N. peace plan. That will be the true test to determine the direction of future events, whether towards peace or war," the statement added.

Inocencio Arias, director-general of the Diplomatic Information Office (Spanish Foreign Ministry press office) declared in an interview by the Spanish radio: "We are sorry and we regret that this (the adoption of the resolution by the Security council) should have occurred. We have always believed that the Sahara question was a problem of decolonization and that the final solution to it will come about when the Sahrawi people has expressed himself onhis future and his destiny by means of a free referendum, with guarantees..."

Violation of the cease-fire

The Information Ministery of the SADR communicates that two Moroccan fighters flied over the region of Dougaj, South of Western Sahara "just in the moment as the Security Council was adopting the resolution calling the two parties to demonstrate the political will to permit the implimentation of the settlement plan".

Joint moroccan-sahrawi declaration

Representatives of the Sahrawi Youth Union and the Moroccan Youth of the USFP, the Socialist Party of Popular Forces, met on April 26 in Limassol (Cyprus) under the auspices of IUSY, the International Union of Socialist Youth. The two organisations published a joint declaration, in which they "support the efforts toward the search of a quick issue of the Western Sahara conflict." "They appeal to both parties to begin a direct dialog".(full text french)

The Association des Jeunes et des Etudiants Sahraouis en France AJESF express in a press release its satisfaction about this event: "It is a gleam of hope toward a peacefull solution in the conflict".


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