9 January 2008The latest round of United Nations-led discussions on Western Sahara wrapped up today, with Morocco and the Frente Polisario agreeing on the need to move into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations. The two-day talks, which took place in Manhasset, just outside of New York City, were also attended by the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, which were present at the opening and closing sessions and consulted separately during the discussions. “During the two days of discussions, the Parties continued to express strong differences on the fundamental questions at stake,” Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, said in a communiqué issued at the end of the talks. “At the same time, the Parties reiterated their commitment to show political will and negotiate in good faith, as called for by the Security Council, and agreed on the need to move the process into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations.” This third round of talks, following two meetings last year, focused on implementing two Security Council resolutions from 2007, namely 1754 and 1783, Mr. van Walsum said. In both texts, the Council called on the parties to continue negotiations without preconditions and in good faith to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. The Parties discussed, but did not reach agreement on, confidence-building measures, and they also conferred on thematic subjects including administration, competencies and organs. Morocco holds that its sovereignty over Western Sahara should be recognized, while the Frente Polisario’s position is that the Territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum that includes independence as an option. They will reconvene from 11 to 13 March for a fourth round of talks to be held at Greentree Estate, the site of the previous three meetings. The Personal Envoy said that both Morocco and the Frente Polisario welcomed his intention to visit the region shortly for in-depth consultations. The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been in the Territory since September 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario.