March 13, 2012 / 9:46 PM / 8 years ago

Still no breakthrough in Western Sahara talks

UNITED NATIONS, March 13 (Reuters) - Three days of talks between Morocco, Sahara’s Polisario Front independence movement, Algeria and Mauritania on the political future of Western Sahara ended on Tuesday with little progress.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, sparking an armed conflict with Polisario. The territory of almost 400,000 people is the size of Britain and has phosphates, fisheries and, potentially, oil and gas.

U.N.-mediated negotiations on the political future of the territory began five years ago.

“Each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as the sole basis for future negotiations, while reiterating their willingness to work together to reach a solution,” U.N. envoy Christopher Ross said in a statement.

“As was the case in the previous informal meetings, the discussions took place in an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect,” he said of the talks that took place in Greentree, Long Island, near New York City.

Ross said the parties would meet again in Europe in June.

A U.N.-brokered ceasefire was reached in 1991 on the basis that a referendum would be held to decide the fate of the territory, but this never took place. There is a 230-strong U.N. mission Western Sahara.

With the political talks deadlocked, the focus shifted last year to human rights.

The Polisario accused Morocco of rights violations against the indigenous Sahrawi people and in October, Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem urged the U.N. General Assembly to address the accusations. Morocco denies the charge. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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