Congressional Record Remarks, Capitol Words (Washington, DC, March 8) — Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the renewal of negotiations between the government of Morocco and the Polisario Front.
The Western Sahara region has been disputed territory since the Spanish withdrew in 1975. It is claimed by Morocco and the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the Western Sahara.
Morocco and the Polisario began direct negotiations in 2007, under the auspices of the United Nations. The next round of negotiations begins on Monday, and I hope that a solution will finally be agreed to during the new talks in Manhasset, NY. The people who live in the Western Sahara have suffered as a result of the region’s status being in limbo, and they deserve for this longstanding dispute to be resolved.
Morocco has a compromise proposal on the table: democratic autonomy for the region under Moroccan sovereignty. I believe this is a reasonable offer and can serve as a basis for negotiations. Undersecretary of State William Burns previously described the Moroccan initiative as a “serious and credible proposal to provide real autonomy for the Western Sahara.” It is also important for the region’s residents to be able to express their views on their future, and for negotiators to take those views into account.
Mr. Speaker, after more than 35 years, it is time for all parties to negotiate in good faith to finally bring this crisis to a close. We are witnessing monumental changes in North Africa following revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. It is in the interest of the United States and the parties involved to achieve a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Western Sahara issue, and more broadly to encourage Morocco to fully implement King Mohammed’s proposed constitutional reforms and continue moving toward a more balanced governmental system that serves the many needs of all citizens of Morocco.