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

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.


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

Updated 47 min 49 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.”