Envoy wants Western Sahara parties to meet in 2018: Britain

Britain's Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen speaks at UN headquarters in New York, US. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 09 August 2018

Envoy wants Western Sahara parties to meet in 2018: Britain

  • The Polisario Front insists on self-determination through a referendum for the local population
  • Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony

UNITED NATIONS: Former German President Horst Koehler is trying to bring Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement together by the end of the year to work on a solution to the 42-year conflict over the Western Sahara, Britain’s deputy UN ambassador said Wednesday.
Koehler, the secretary-general’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, briefed the Security Council behind closed doors, and British envoy Jonathan Allen told several reporters afterward that all 15 members “stressed the importance of consultations with everybody.”
“The president got a lot of support from the council for his approach and for his proposal to try and see if he can bring the parties together by the end of the year,” said Allen, who chaired the meeting as part of Britain’s council presidency this month.
A UN diplomat said Koehler told members that he would be sending invitations to the parties in September.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front. The UN brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor it and help prepare a referendum on the territory’s future that has never taken place.
Morocco considers the mineral-rich Western Sahara its “southern provinces” and has proposed giving the territory wide-ranging autonomy. The Polisario Front insists on self-determination through a referendum for the local population, which it estimates at between 350,000 and 500,000.
Sidi Omar, the Polisario Front’s UN representative, said bringing the parties together by the end of the year “would be a positive step in the process, definitely.”
“We’re very willing and ready to accept an invitation should that be addressed to us, to engage in this process in the framework of the United Nations ... to find a lasting and peaceful solution to this longstanding conflict,” Omar said.
Morocco’s UN Mission did not have any immediate comment on the meeting.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 34 min 58 sec ago

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”