Dáil Éireann - Volume 657 - 18 June, 2008

Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement in relation to the peace talks between different parties regarding the independence of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic. [23526/08]

  Deputy Micheál Martin: The Government has consistently supported the right to self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara. Ireland has not taken a position on the future of the Territory, be it full independence, autonomy, or integration under Moroccan sovereignty. The important point is that the status of the Territory should be decided in a genuine exercise of self-determination by the people of the Western Sahara. We strongly support the continuing engagement of the United Nations in the search for a political solution in the Western Sahara based on the principle of self-determination.

Under the auspices of the United Nations, representatives of the Government of Morocco and of the Polisario Front have held a series of four direct meetings in Manhasset, in New York State, to discuss the future of the Territory of the Western Sahara. The most recent meeting was held on 16-18 March 2008. There has unfortunately been no substantive progress to report from these talks so far. Morocco has set out its vision of an autonomous Government in the Territory, operating under Moroccan sovereignty. In response the Polisario Front, representing the Saharawi people, has set out its position in favour of the creation of an independent State in close association with Morocco, and with protection for Moroccan vital interests. Morocco has refused, however, to discuss any proposals which include independence as one of the possibilities for the Territory.

Although there is clearly a broad gap between these two competing visions, I regard it as a positive and helpful development that both parties have set out their proposals for the future, and the measures they can envisage to accommodate the concerns of the other side. The most recent round also agreed some extension of confidence-building measures in relation to family links between Saharawi people in the Territory and in the refugee camps in Algeria. The parties have agreed to meet again, at a date to be decided.