During his five day long official visit to Morocco, the president of the Norwegian parliament, Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, will raise the human rights situation in Western Sahara with the Moroccan authorities. Jagland will exert pressure on the Moroccan authorities to allow a Nordic delegation into the occupied area, and he believes the controversial Royal Council for Saharan affairs is to be considered a part of Morocco's occupation policy. Read article in Verdensmagasinet X.
By Per Kristian C. Nielsen (In Marrakech, Morocco)
Verdensmagasinet X, Norway 2. April 2007
For a number of years Thorbjorn Jagland has been a driving force in Norwegian policy regarding the Palestinian issue. He is now on a five day official visit to Morocco. In a meeting with Morocco's Foreign Minister Mohammed Bena´ssa tomorrow Mr. Jagland will raise the less known conflict in Western Sahara.
"I have long been concerned about this conflict" says Jagland. "But it hasn't been that visible in the public domain since the press wishes to focus on more violent conflicts".
In addition to the meeting with Bena´ssa tomorrow the President of Norwegian parliament (the Storting) will meet Prime Minister Driss Jettou later in the week. In the meetings he wishes to raise the human rights situation of the population of Western Sahara, the Sahrawis.
"Do you see any parallells between the situation of the Sahrawis and that of the Palestinians?"
"It is difficult to draw any clear parallels between the two conflicts. Both nations demand a greater say over their own affairs but the Sahrawis who live in the refugee camps probably live under tougher conditions than most Palestinians", Mr. Jagland said to Verdensmagasinet X.
It is probable that during his meetings with the ministers Mr. Jagland will be presented with Morocco's new autonomy proposal for Western Sahara. The proposal is not yet publicly known but several governments have so far been informed of its main characteristics. The plan, which will be presented to the United Nations Security Council in April, entails the annexation of the territory into Morocco. Morocco thereby rejects the UN demand for a referendum.
- A part of the occupation policy Later in the week Mr Jagland will also meet the president of Corcas ľ the Royal Council for Saharan Affairs- appointed by the Moroccan king, Mohammed VI. The council has been controversial because it has been seen as a part of Morocco's strategic occupation policy. Jagland now says he agrees with this criticism.
"Does such a council have any real legitimacy in a matter like this?"
"Whether or not it has legitimacy is a matter of definition. It is possible that the Sahrawis feel that Corcas acts in a partisan way, but the council has nevertheless started a process. What remains clear, however, is that the council is a part of the Moroccan occupation policy", says Jagland.
In a separate interview with the channel TV2 Nyhetskanalen later the same day Mr. Jagland added that any proposal has to be based on respect for international law.
Rejected delegations On two occasions over the last few years the Moroccan authorities have refused to allow delegations from the Nordic embassies in Rabat into the occupied areas to meet Sahrawi representatives. This is also something that the President of the Parliament wishes to raise with the Moroccan ministers.
"Will you raise the repeated Norwegian attempts to send an embassy delegation into the occupied areas to talk to Sahrawi representatives?"
"We're working on sending a Nordic embassy delegation. I will discuss this with our ambassador in Rabat this coming Wednesday", Mr. Jagland says to Verdensmagasinet X.
Five Norwegian journalists have been thrown out of Western Sahara and Morocco while wishing to cover the Western Sahara affair. While Morocco has blocked access to Western Sahara for many Norwegian and other foreign delegations, Amnesty International reports widespread violations against the civilian population in the territory.
Per Kristian C. Nielsen is a Norwegian freelance journalist Se original in Norwegian here. Translated to English by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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