UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged on Monday he had spoken out of turn in a report that leaned towards the Moroccan side in protracted negotiations with the Polisario movement over western Sahara.The two sides met earlier this month near New York for two days of groundbreaking UN-sponsored talks, the first meeting in seven years, aimed at ending a 32-year-old dispute over the former Spanish territory. Negotiations resume on August 10 at the Greentree estate in Manhassat, Long Island.
Morocco wants talks about self-rule for the territory under Rabatâ€™s sovereignty, but the Polisario Front, the rebel movement seeking independence, has demanded a referendum that would include the option of full independence.
On Friday, Banâ€™s office issued a report that recommended the Polisario â€œcould be asked to test Moroccoâ€™s readiness to take part in serious, constructive negotiationsâ€ by making â€œconcrete proposals to clarify or amend Moroccoâ€™s limited autonomy proposalâ€, but leaving aside final status questions.
There was no mention of Polisarioâ€™s proposals, suggesting that Moroccoâ€™s plan was the only viable one under discussion.
â€œIf the negotiations are to lead to a positive outcome, both parties must recognise that the question of sovereignty is, and always has been, the main stumbling block in this dispute, and that it is in this highly sensitive area that a solution will need to be found,â€ Ban said in the report.
But the new report on Monday dropped these paragraphs and made clear that the 15-nation UN Security Council had requested that Banâ€™s office arrange for the talks â€œwithout preconditionsâ€ and with a view to achieving a â€œlasting and mutually acceptable political solutionâ€. Still, UN officials would not say whether they had discarded the concept of negotiating on the basis of Moroccoâ€™s plan. Instead a UN statement said it was â€œin the best interests of the processâ€ for Banâ€™s special envoy, Peter van Walsum, to brief the Security Council orally next week â€œrather than in a public report.