Spain calls for mediation on Western Sahara

The Spanish President, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has asked the international community and the United Nations for support and help with beginning negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front – the liberation movement representing the occupied part of Western Sahara – with the aim of reaching a definitive solution to the problems posed by this disputed territory.

Speaking at a press conference in Lisbon following the conclusion of a NATO summit Zapatero admitted that this was a difficult mission but he also recognised that over the last decade solutions have been found for other conflicts as complicated or even more complicated.

Zapatero made it clear that the Spanish government would play a major role in any dialogue between the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front with regards to the future of the occupied part of Western Sahara. He also said that his government would act ‘responsibly, prudently and moderately’. In addition, Zapatero emphasised that the Spanish government’s position on the dispute was correct and responsible in line with other ‘great democracies and the United Nations’

In his opinion the intense debate and controversy which has arisen following the dismantling of the Saharan camp set up near El Aaiún has clouded what is really important which is that Sahara needs a permanent political settlement – ‘a settlement which Morocco, the Saharan people and the international community needs’.

Zapatero said that the way forward was for political dialogue between Morocco and the Polisario Front led by the United Nations and supported by the international community.

The Spanish Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jiménez, has asked both the United States and the United Kingdom to support negotiations between Rabat and the Polisario Front and to involve the ‘Friends of the Sahara Group’ in these negotiations.

Zapatero believes that the countries belonging to this Group – Spain, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and France should meet at ministerial level and commit themselves to the dialogue. Zaptero also believes that if the Spanish position on direct negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front is shared by this Group then dialogue can begin with the objective of finding a settlement for this 30 year old dispute.