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Western Sahara

Yearbook 2008

Western Sahara. Representatives of the Western Sahara Independence Movement Polisario as well as for Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania met for talks in January and March outside New York. The goal was to reach a solution to the question of Morocco's occupation of V., but no progress was achieved. The United Nations Security Council voted April 30 through Resolution 1813, extending the mandate of the UN Force MINURSO (UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) in the region by one year. At the same time, the Security Council called on the parties to show "political will".

In 1975, Morocco demanded sovereignty over the area and the case was brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The court's order fell into two sections, with the first paragraph finding that there had once been certain historical ties between Morocco and Western Sahara. At the same time, however, the second paragraph of the order stated that this past could not change the fact that the people of Western Sahara were now entitled to national self-determination. The following day, Morocco declared that the court had supported Morocco's view, but it clearly did not - it supported Polisario's demand for a referendum.

In an attempt to contain the defeat, the Moroccan king, Hassan II, organized the so-called "Green march". It was a propaganda campaign that mobilized 350,000 Moroccans crossing the border into Western Sahara to mark Morocco's demands in the area.

The Spanish government promised in 1975 to hand over Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania, but the people of Western Sahara proclaimed the Democratic Arab Republic (RASD) on February 27 the following year. This new African republic was born in Bir Lahlu, somewhere in the desert of Saguia El Hamra, a few kilometers from the Mauritanian border. A few hours before, the last colonial power official had officially declared the Spanish presence.

Several countries officially recognized the new nation, but nonetheless the war with Morocco and Mauritania broke out. A few years later, Mauritania, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, decided to end the war and sign a peace agreement with POLISARIO. In contrast, Hassan's troops increased the war effort with French and North American support.

POLISARIO's military progress made it possible to achieve a diplomatic victory at the OUA Summit in Freetown in July 1980. At the meeting, twenty-six African countries declared their official recognition of RASD as legitimate representation of Western Sahara people. And four months later, the UN asked Morocco to withdraw its forces from Western Sahara. Between 1980 and 1981, fifty countries maintained diplomatic relations with RASD. The military offensive continued and in March 1981 the city of Guelta Zemmur was captured.

But the war continued. POLISARIO had the power in the coastal areas and levied fishing licenses from the 1200 foreign boats that utilized Western Sahara's fishing banks. Only Spain paid Morocco approx. US $ 500,000 per year for this right. Spain also paid about 25,000 million pesetas to Morocco for its development assistance budget, which in fact went into rebuilding.

In November 1984, RASD achieved full membership of the OAU. Morocco then left the OAU, as it had announced in advance. On November 14, 1985, the UN Decolonization Committee recognized Western Sahara's right to self-determination.

Since the beginning of the war, the UN had been trying to bridge POLISARIO and King Hassan on the 2nd. With the support of Algeria, UN negotiations began to accelerate.

On March 26, 1988, the peace plan garnered support from the United States when Deputy Secretary of State Richard Murphy declared in the Senate that the United States did not recognize Morocco's sovereignty in Western Sahara. He added that the conflict should be resolved along the way. Both Morocco and POLISARIO agreed that a referendum should be held in Western Sahara where the people could choose between independence or affiliation with Morocco.

In July 1990, representatives of Morocco and POLISARIO a procedure for the referendum. The biggest problem was defining who could vote. The last Spanish census from Western Sahara was from 1974, and Morocco wanted Moroccan staff in the occupied zone to have the right to vote. Both parties agreed that the UN should have the "sole and exclusive" control over the voting, counting and publication of the results.

They also agreed to carry out a ceasefire while the referendum was on; that the Moroccan forces should gradually be reduced in the area, from approx. 160,000 to 25,000 and that these should be withdrawn from the area 24 hours after the announcement of the referendum result. For its part, POLISARIO was to withdraw its forces from the area near Tindouf in Algeria.

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