UN to hold new round of Western Sahara talks

Morocco, Polisario Front, Algeria, Mauritania will join UN envoy in Switzerland to discuss reaching just, lasting, mutually acceptable political solution to conflict.

UNITED NATIONS - A second round of talks on ending the Western Sahara conflict will take place in Switzerland on Thursday and Friday, the UN said in a statement that stressed the need to compromise.

Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania will join UN envoy Horst Koehler to discuss "reaching a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara," said a UN statement.

Koehler, a former German president who has been leading the peace effort, held a first round of talks in December in Geneva that did not yield any breakthroughs.

"The purpose of the meeting is for delegations to start approaching elements needed for building an enduring solution based on compromise," said the statement.

Following the talks to be held near Geneva, South Africa will hold "a solidarity conference" on March 25 and 26 in Pretoria to push for a referendum on the status of Western Sahara.

The conference is organized by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The Polisario fought a war with Morocco from 1975 to 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed and a UN peace mission was deployed to monitor the truce.

The Polisario is demanding a referendum on independence for the territory. But Morocco has offered autonomy to Western Sahara.

Morocco, which annexed the territory after Spain withdrew in 1975, considers Western Sahara to be an integral part of the kingdom and has instead offered autonomy.