"Since the 1970s, Morocco and the independence-seeking Popular Front for the Liberation of Saqiat al Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) have vied for control of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory. In 1991, the United Nations arranged a cease-fire 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 an autonomy plan. In 2007 and 2008, the two sides met under U.N. auspices, but made no progress due to their unwillingness to compromise. The issue has affected Algerian-Moroccan bilateral relations and wider regional cooperation. The United States supports the U.N. effort and has urged the parties to focus on autonomy--a solution that would not destabilize its ally, Morocco. Some Members of Congress support a referendum and are frustrated by delays. P.L. 110-161, December 26, 2007, contains a provision expressing concern about human rights in the Western Sahara. This report will be updated if developments warrant. See also CRS [Congressional Research Service] Report RS21579, 'Morocco: Current Issues', by Carol Migdalovitz, and CRS Report RS21532, 'Algeria: Current Issues', by Carol Migdalovitz."
CRS Report for Congress, RS20962
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