Second round of talks on Western Sahara ends

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita speaks to the media during a conference in Geneva on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2019

Second round of talks on Western Sahara ends

  • Foreign ministers from Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania along with the Polisario’s chief negotiator spent the past two days meeting in a secret location “near Geneva”

GENEVA: A second round of talks on the disputed Western Sahara region ended Friday with the sides agreeing to meet again, but with the UN acknowledging many positions remained far apart.
Morocco and the Polisario Front liberation movement appeared to have come no closer on the thorny issue of an independence referendum to decide Western Sahara’s fate.
The Polisario has demanded a vote — a proposal categorically rejected by Rabat.
“This is not and will not be easy,” United Nations envoy and former German President Horst Kohler told reporters in Geneva. “There is still a lot of work ahead,” he said.
“Nobody should expect a quick outcome, because many positions are still fundamentally diverging.”
Foreign ministers from Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania along with the Polisario’s chief negotiator spent the past two days meeting in a secret location “near Geneva.”
Kohler read a joint communique hailing the delegations for engaging in “courteously and openly in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”
The talks focused on finding “a mutually acceptable political solution ... that is realistic, practicable, enduring, based on compromise, just, lasting, (and) which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,” the communique said.
The parties had agreed to “continue the discussion,” it added.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told journalists the sides agreed to meet before the summer.
The international community has long advocated that a referendum be held to decide the status of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony on the western edge of the vast eponymous desert, stretching around 1,000 km along the Atlantic coastline.


UK opposition chief Corbyn apologizes for Labour’s worst election debacle

Updated 21 min 16 sec ago

UK opposition chief Corbyn apologizes for Labour’s worst election debacle

  • But veteran socialist defended his far-left campaign platform and gave no clear indication of when he might step down
  • Labour’s campaign was dogged by voter doubts about its vague position on Brexit

LONDON: Britain’s main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn apologized to supporters on Sunday for overseeing his Labour party’s worst election defeat since before World War II.
But the veteran socialist defended his far-left campaign platform and gave no clear indication of when he might step down.
“I will make no bones about it. The election result on Thursday was a body blow for everyone who so desperately needs real change in our country,” Corbyn wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
“I wanted to unite the country that I love but I’m sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it.”
Thursday’s snap general election handed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a mandate to take Britain out of the European Union at the end of next month.
Corbyn said on Friday that he would step down at some point early next year.
But the century-old party has no clear successor and is being riven by infighting within its senior ranks.
Labour’s campaign was dogged by voter doubts about its vague position on Brexit and allegations of anti-Semitism within the party’s senior ranks.
Corbyn tried to shift the campaign’s focus on bread-and-butter social issues traditionally important to Labour voters.
“But despite our best efforts, this election was ultimately about Brexit,” Corbyn admitted in his letter.
“The Tory campaign, amplified by most of the media, managed to persuade many that only Boris Johnson could ‘get Brexit done’,” he said in reference to Johnson’s campaign slogan.
“We will learn the lessons of this defeat, above all by listening to those lifelong Labour voters who we’ve lost in working class communities.”