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Western Sahara

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 25 November 2008, Official Report, column 1214W, on Western Sahara: politics and government, whether he has discussed with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights the Government's position on human rights monitoring in the Western Sahara. (244262)

I have had no recent discussions on human rights monitoring in Western Sahara with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The UK strongly supports UNHCR's activities in Western Sahara as elsewhere. The UK continues to believe that the resolution of humanitarian questions should not await the conclusion of a political settlement. The UK, along with EU partners, has called on Morocco and the Polisario to deal with outstanding human rights issues and implement measures that will increase people's confidence.

I understand the High Commissioner will visit the region early next year and I wish her a successful visit.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations on Morocco's continued occupation of Western Sahara to the Moroccan ambassador to the UK. (244263)

The UK supports the negotiation process initiated in Manhasset in 2007 to achieve a political outcome to the Western Sahara question. We hope a further round of talks will take place soon. UNSCR 1813 adopted on 30 April 2008 called on the parties to continue to show political will and to work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiation. The UK has reiterated the words of the UNSG, calling on the parties to work with a spirit of realism and compromise towards a mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

My officials regularly discuss the issue of Western Sahara with their Moroccan counterparts including the Moroccan ambassador to the UK. I discussed Western Sahara with the Moroccan Foreign Minister at the Euromed Conference in Marseille on 3 November.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has discussed with his Moroccan counterpart the movement of Moroccan settlers to occupied Western Sahara and the application of the Geneva Convention to such settlements; and if he will make a statement. (244367)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did discuss Western Sahara, and specifically human rights, with the Moroccan Foreign Minister Fassi Fihri in November, at the Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial meeting in Marseille. Neither my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary nor I have discussed the issue of migration between Morocco and Western Sahara with our Moroccan counterparts.

The UK continues to believe that progress towards a negotiated solution to the dispute in Western Sahara providing for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, is best achieved under the auspices of the United Nations. To this end and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution (1813) of 30 April, the UK fully supports the efforts of the UN in this respect and looks forward to the appointment of a new UN Secretary General Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara, and the resumption of the Manhasset negotiations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the killing of two Saharawi students on 1 December 2008; and what action the ambassador in Rabat has taken. (244369)

Two Saharawi students were crushed by a bus on 1 December 2008 in the coach station of Agadir. The coach station was busier than normal with a high number of passengers seeking to travel to their home cities to celebrate the festival of Eid Al Adha with their families. Local media reports claim that a coach company declined to accept students in possession of vouchers for free transport and some of those students attempted to prevent the coach from leaving the station. Unfortunately two students were fatally injured during the ensuing commotion.

The Attorney-General in Morocco directed the police to conduct a probe into the incident and the coach driver has been placed in police custody. Following the incident there were demonstrations at university campuses at which some students were arrested but subsequently released.

The British embassy in Morocco has been monitoring the situation in region.