UN invites Western Sahara parties for new talks in December

The United Nations has invited Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement, for talks in Geneva on the conflict in the desert region next December. (AFP/Getty)
Updated 01 October 2018
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UN invites Western Sahara parties for new talks in December

GENEVA: The United Nations has invited Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement, for talks in Geneva on the conflict in the desert region next December, a UN spokeswoman said on Monday.
UN efforts have repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the territory, contested between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario since Spanish colonial power left in 1974.
UN Special Envoy for Western Sahara, Horst Kohler, has invited the foreign ministers of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania as well as the secretary general of the Polisario Front for a meeting in Geneva, the spokeswoman said.
Morocco has insisted that Algeria should be brought to the negotiation table accusing it of backing Polisario militarily and financially. Algeria denies the accusations.
“The purpose of the meeting is to take stock of developments since the last round of negotiations, address regional issues, and discuss the next steps in the political process on Western Sahara,” the UN spokeswoman said.
The talks come after Kohler’s second visit to the region in June and after his briefing to the Security Council on 8 August, during which he announced his intention of organizing a meeting before the end of the year.
In 1991 the UN brokered a cease-fire between Morocco and the Polisario and supported a referendum on the region’s future, including the possibility of independence. The vote never happened.
Morocco has offered autonomy to Western Sahara, a thinly populated region that has rich fishing waters and phosphate deposits, and may also have oil and gas reserves.
Polisario and its ally Algeria reject this and say they want a referendum, with independence for Western Sahara as one of the options.


Cambodia seizes record 3-ton haul of African ivory

This photo taken on December 13, 2018 shows Cambodian Customs and Excise Officials looking at ivory seized from a shipping container at the Phnom Penh port. (AFP)
Updated 17 December 2018
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Cambodia seizes record 3-ton haul of African ivory

  • Demand from China and Vietnam has fueled the growth of illegal wildlife trafficking via Cambodia

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia seized more than 3.2 tons of elephant tusks hidden in a storage container sent from Mozambique, a customs official said Sunday, marking the country’s largest ivory bust.
The discovery Thursday of 1,026 tusks at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port followed a tip from the US embassy, the official said, and highlights Cambodia’s emergence as a key regional transit point for the multibillion dollar trade in illicit wildlife.
“The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned,” Sun Chhay, director of the Customs and Excise Office at the port, told AFP.
He said the ivory was sent from the southern African nation of Mozambique and arrived at the port last year.
The unidentified owner of the shipment did not arrive to pick up the cargo.
Pictures of the massive haul showed long rows of confiscated tusks spread out on the ground at the port.
Sun Chhay said he did not know whether the shipment was destined for markets in other countries.
Demand from China and Vietnam has fueled the growth of illegal wildlife trafficking via Cambodia.
Weak law enforcement and corruption attract wildlife smugglers, especially at a time when neighboring Thailand is cracking down on the banned trade.
Ivory is prized for its beauty while the market in traditional medicine has led to the smuggling of rhino horn and pangolin scales.
Cambodia has a minuscule elephant population but its emergence as a new trafficking hub has resulted in several headline-grabbing busts over the past five years.
The largest before this week occured in 2014, when Cambodian customs seized about three tons of ivory hidden in a container of beans at the southwestern port of Sihanoukville.
Last year, Cambodia also seized nearly a ton of ivory hidden in hollowed-out logs discovered inside an abandoned container, owned by a company based in Mozambique.