14 January 2011The next round of informal talks between the parties to the conflict over Western Sahara will take place from 21 to 23 January in New York, the United Nations announced today. Participating in the talks will be delegations of the parties to the dispute – Morocco and the Frente Polisario – and the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania. At the last round of talks in mid-December, the parties initiated discussion on innovative approaches to create an environment that could be more propitious for progress to be made. At the next meeting, the parties have been asked to make concrete proposals on these approaches.The meetings are being held at the invitation of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, within the mandate given by the UN Security Council. The UN has been involved in efforts towards a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.