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US Ambassador to UN's Western Sahara Remarks

US Mission to the UN press release, July 11, 2007

Reporter:  But it’s quite clear from the statement that the United States supports Morocco,  autonomy as the alternative that should be pursued with a referendum that does not mention the word “independence” as an option.

Ambassador Sanders:  We said that we believe a promising and realistic way forward on the Western Sahara is meaningful autonomy.  And Morocco’s initiative could provide a realistic framework to begin negotiations.  Clearly the parties involved have to come to agreement.  This has got to be a political negotiation and a political solution agreed to by all the parties.  We support movement forward, let me put it that way.

USUN PRESS RELEASE #168                                                                                    July 11, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Remarks by Ambassador Jackie Sanders, U.S. Alternate Representative, on Western Sahara, at the Security Council Stakeout, July 11, 2007

Ambassador Sanders:  Good Afternoon.  We just had very interesting and I think positive discussions in the Security Council on the Western Sahara and a briefing by Special Envoy Van Walsum.  I think the President of the Council will be coming out after the session finishes today to read out a press statement that was agreed in the Council, but I wanted to come to you and just let you know that the United States had this to say in the Council today:

We welcomed the Secretary-General’s June 29th report on the status and progress of the negotiations on Western Sahara.

We are very pleased that the parties and States of the region agreed to meet for direct negotiations on June 18th and 19th.  We urged the parties to engage in substantive, meaningful negotiations on the details of a plan for the way forward when they next meet in August.

We again take note of the Moroccan proposal presented on April 11, 2007, to the Secretary-General and welcome Morocco’s serious and credible efforts to move the process forward toward resolution.

We believe a promising and realistic way forward on the Western Sahara is meaningful autonomy.  Morocco’s initiative could provide a realistic framework to begin negotiations on a plan that would provide for real autonomy contingent on the approval of the local populations. We hope both sides will engage realistically.

We note that the Moroccan initiative is flexible, and provides for a referendum in keeping with the principle of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

I have time for maybe one or two questions.

Reporter:  Ma’am, was there a draft Presidential Statement that you were trying to present to the other members of the Council and it was not accepted so that is why you opted for a press statement?

Ambassador Sanders:  No.

Reporter:  Is there any recognition of the Frente Polisario proposal?  The U.S., in your statement, did not mention anything about that.

Ambassador Sanders:  We have supported, privately and publicly, the direct negotiations between the parties.  We think that whatever the parties can come to agreement on is movement in the right direction and we need to get off the status quo, so we support direct negotiations.

Reporter:  Is this the first time that the United States is now accepting the concept of autonomy?

Ambassador Sanders:  I think that we are leaving the proposals in the hands of the parties.  And it’s not for us to accept or not accept – it’s up to the parties in the direct negotiations.

Reporter:  But it’s quite clear from the statement that the United States supports Morocco,  autonomy as the alternative that should be pursued with a referendum that does not mention the word “independence” as an option.

Ambassador Sanders:  We said that we believe a promising and realistic way forward on the Western Sahara is meaningful autonomy.  And Morocco’s initiative could provide a realistic framework to begin negotiations.  Clearly the parties involved have to come to agreement.  This has got to be a political negotiation and a political solution agreed to by all the parties.  We support movement forward, let me put it that way.

Reporter:  But the U.S. voted yes on resolution 1754, which acknowledges both proposals, so I am wondering why there is a back step right now based on this statement that you just said?

Ambassador Sanders:  I would not call it a “back step,” I would call it forward movement.  We want to see forward movement with the parties and I think we are seeing that.  We’re very encouraged by the first round and we look forward to forward movement in August.

Thank you.

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