afrol News, 18 January - According to reports from sources close to the Western Sahara exiled government, the "new solution" to the Sahara conflict presented by UN Envoy James Baker are "just another repetition of his Framework Agreement," which outlines Western Sahara as an autonomous Moroccan province. Ex-US Secretary of State Baker had been ordered by the UN to present a solution safeguarding self-determination for the Sahrawis.
According to the Sahrawi news agency SPS, which is in close contact to the POLISARIO Western Sahara exiled government, "trustworthy sources" within the POLISARIO had said the new proposals by Mr Baker were "nothing else than a slightly changed version of the Framework Agreement" that the UN Envoy earlier had proposed. On three occasions, the majority of the UN Security Council - against the votes of France, the US and the UK - had turned down this proposal.
- It is neither a fifth way nor a new plan, the same source within POLISARIO had told SPS, adding that it was "the same framework plan that was already rejected by all the parties to the conflict except Morocco and which the Security Council had already refused to accept."
Mr Baker had been sent on a new mission to Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Sahrawi refugee camps in south-western Algeria to launch new discussions on the 27-years-old conflict over Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. A 30 July UN Security Council resolution had implied a revitalisation of the 1991 plan to hold a referendum among the Sahrawis on whether to establish an independent Sahrawi state. In the resolution, the Council "expresses its readiness to consider any approach which provides for self-determination" for the Sahrawis.
The Security Council thus had moved against the "Framework Agreement", personally favoured by Mr Baker. The UN Envoy earlier had to admit that this proposal had its origins in Morocco, and it was only supported by the Moroccan government. The POLISARIO, on the other hand, threatened to end the 1991 ceasefire if the promised referendum not was to materialise.
Emhamed Khadad, POLISARIO's coordinator with the UN, yesterday said that "any proposal that does not take into account the inalienable rights of the Sahrawi people to self-determination will not have our approval."
The so-called "Framework Agreement" foresees that Western Sahara will be made an autonomous Moroccan province during four year. Then, a referendum over independence would be organised by Moroccan authorities, including all inhabitants in the territory, of which an estimated 65 percent meanwhile are Moroccans. The UN's original referendum plan only foresees a referendum among Sahrawis, to be organised by the UN.
Mr Baker has been surprisingly persistent in proposing a pro-Moroccan solution to the conflict, given the continuous resistance of his employers, the UN. The ex-US Secretary of State has been seen defending US interests in the region. Morocco is one of the US' closest allies in Northern Africa. Further, US oil companies are involved in the search of oil off the Sahara coast, contracted by the Moroccan government.
Lately, also Mr Baker's personal interests in the Sahrawi conflict have been exposed. According to the Washington-based journalist Wayne Madsen, writing for 'CounterPunch', Mr Baker "has his own close ties to Kerr McGee," the US oil company given rights to exploit possible Sahrawi offshore oil. The UN Envoy further was "under pressure from his friends in the Bush administration to bring about the commencement of oil drilling off of Western Sahara," Mr Madsen's research had shown.
No official news of the "new solutions" presented by Mr Baker has so far been published, however. The UN Envoy had given the parties a two months deadline "in order to give more time to the parties to think about our proposals," he told reporters in the Tindouf refugees' camp. The diplomatic silence in Rabat and the leaks in Tindouf however indicate that this "new plan" is not favourable to the Sahrawis.
Sources: Based on SPS, UN sources and afrol archives.