Ethiopia: AU to reopen office in Western Sahara

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) -  Expressing concern that all efforts aimed at finding a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara have so far failed to achieve the expected results, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) has requested the AU Commission to immediately reopen the AU Office in Laayoune, the largest city of the disputed territory.

Four decades after the onset of the conflict on the decolonization of Western Sahara, the PSC has observed, "the prevailing deadlock in the peace process not only heightens tensions in the territory, but also undermines efforts to promote continental integration."

At its 668th meeting held on 20 March 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Council decided to strengthen the mandate of former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, to be appointed as AU High Representative for Western Sahara, with the mandate to facilitate direct talks between the Sahrawi Arab Democratic  Republic (SADR) and Morocco and to mobilize African and UN efforts required to this effect.

In a communiqué released on Thursday, the PSC appealed to the UN and the larger international community to lend their full support to African efforts aimed at overcoming the current impasse in the peace process in Western Sahara.

"Council expresses the urgency for renewed efforts to achieve an early and definitive resolution to this conflict," said the communiqué, noting the PSC's commendation to "Morocco’s readiness to sit side by side with the SADR in the deliberations of the AU Policy Organs."

The Kingdom of Morocco acceded to the AU in January 2017 without preconditions nor reservations, after a 33-year absence in protest of the continental body's recognition of the independence of Western Sahara.

During the session that was devoted to the situation in Western Sahara, the PSC also decided to reactivate the Ad hoc Committee of Heads of State and Government on the conflict in Western Sahara, established pursuant to resolution AHG/Res.92(XV), adopted at the 15th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, held in Khartoum, Sudan, from 18-22 July 1978.  

According to the communiqué, the PSC looked forward  to the renewal of the mandate of the The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) which is due to expire on 30 April 2017.

"Council urges the UN Security Council to take the necessary steps to restore full functionality of MINURSO in order for it to effectively oversee the ceasefire agreement and to avoid recurrence of violations," it stated.

Though the Kingdom of Morocco had been invited by the Council to attend its 668th meeting on the situation in Western Sahara, it did not. For that reason, the Council, has called on Rabat to extend the necessary cooperation in conformity with the provisions of the AU Constitutive Act and the PSC Protocol.

-0- PANA AR 23March2017

23 march 2017 17:16:07

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