"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 calling 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 number of Sahrawis, as the indigenous people of Western Sahara are known, is disputed and politically fraught.) The U.N. then unsuccessfully suggested alternatives to the unfulfilled settlement plan and ultimately, in 2007, called on the parties to negotiate. In April 2007, Morocco offered a plan for increased regional autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. The Polisario, for its part, has continued to call for a referendum on independence. […] The Polisario has a government in exile, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which is hosted and backed by neighboring Algeria. 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 Western Sahara. The United States supports the U.N. mediation effort, has referred to the Moroccan autonomy proposal as 'serious, realistic, and credible,' and has urged the parties to reach a mutually acceptable solution--an outcome that would not destabilize its ally, Morocco."
CRS Report for Congress, RS20962