Western Sahara [April 5, 2012]   [open pdf - 292KB]

"Since the 1970s, Morocco and the independence-seeking Popular Front for the Liberation of Saqiat al Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) have vied, at times violently, for control of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. In 1991, the United Nations (U.N.) arranged a ceasefire and proposed a settlement plan that called for a referendum to allow the people of the Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration into Morocco. A long deadlock on determining the electorate for a referendum ensued. The U.N. then unsuccessfully suggested alternatives to the unfulfilled settlement plan and later called on the parties to negotiate. In April 2007, Morocco offered a plan for increased regional autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. The Moroccan government and the Polisario have repeatedly met under U.N. auspices since 2007, but have made no progress on a settlement due to their unwillingness to compromise. Informal talks are currently being mediated by U.N. Special Envoy Christopher Ross, a U.S. diplomat. Today, Morocco controls roughly 80% of the disputed territory and considers the whole region part of its sovereign territory. […] The Western Sahara issue has stymied Moroccan-Algerian bilateral relations, Moroccan relations with the African Union, and regional cooperation on economic and security issues. The United States has not recognized the SADR or Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. […] The United States contributes funds, but no manpower, to the U.N. Mission for the Organization of a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO). MINURSO was initially focused on organizing a referendum, but its current mandate emphasizes monitoring the 1991 cease-fire."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RS20962
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