MANHASSET, New York — UN-brokered talks between Morocco and Western Sahara rebels failed to break decades of deadlock on the future of the disputed North African territory, the UN envoy said.
"Each party continues to reject the proposal of the other as a sole basis for future negotiations," said UN special envoy Christopher Ross, who oversaw the third round of talks near New York in the past two months and the ninth since 2007.
The Polisario Front independence group demands a self-determination referendum in the north African territory that was annexed by Morocco after Spain withdrew in 1975. Morocco has only offered greater autonomy.
Polisario negotiator Khatri Addu told reporters "Morocco continues to avoid any real negotiation." He demanded an international commission of inquiry into "repression" in the territory.
Morocco's Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri said his country was ready "to find a solution to this regional difference on the basis of Morocco's legitimacy in its Sahara."
The two sides did agree to a new round of informal talks in March.
The UN envoy had asked both sides to bring "concrete proposals" to improve prospects for the negotiations which have been dragging on for years. Another round of talks is scheduled in March.
The United Nations brokered a ceasefire in the conflict in 1991. A Security Council-approved plan called for a referendum in Western Sahara on independence or integration with Morocco, but it has never occurred.
Ross said the weekend talks went ahead with "serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect."
"The parties engaged in extensive discussions on innovative approaches to build a new dynamic for this process on the basis of regular meetings," the envoy added.
"In this regard, both parties presented and discussed in a preliminary manner concrete ideas that will be developed at the next round of informal talks" in March.
Delegations from neighboring Algeria, which supports the Polisario Front, and Mauritania were also at the talks.
Western Saharans living in Algerian refugee camps have been allowed to resume family visits and this was welcomed by all sides at the talks.
A meeting with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva is scheduled next month in a bid to step up the visits, Ross said.
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