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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05MADRID1353 2005-04-07 14:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
Cable title:  

MFA OFFICIAL SEES LITTLE PROGRESS ON WESTERN SAHARA

Tags:   PTER MO SP 
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1. (C) MFA DAS for Maghreb Affairs Carlos Fernandez Arias
told poloff on March 31 that Spain sees few signs of progress
in negotiations to resolve the Western Sahara dispute and
only limited indications of improved Moroccan-Algerian
relations. Arias (protect) said FM Moratinos and other GOS
political figures were more optimistic than he was about the
chances for advancing on the Western Sahara issue, a point
borne out by FM Moratinos' emphatic support for moving ahead
expressed during his meeting with the Deputy Secretary on
April 2 (Ref A). Arias' analysis was that all of the parties
are entrenched in their positions and feel little pressure to
compromise. On a more positive note, Arias said that none of
the actors, including Polisario, contemplated a resumption of
military operations as a viable means for breaking the
impasse.



2. (C) On Moroccan-Algerian relations and the recent meeting
between Bouteflika and King Hassan (Ref B), Arias said the
high level meeting made him "cautiously optimistic" that both
sides were at least interested in toning down their
disagreement. He viewed the lack of substantive press
reporting on the meeting as a positive indicator, since
official silence implied the two leaders engaged in a serious
discussion of the issues rather than political posturing.



3. (C) Arias said Morocco was unsettled by Algerian and
Polisario diplomatic successes over the last year and seemed
to using this period of relative inactivity on Western Sahara
to mount its own diplomatic offensive, for example in Latin
America. He said Morocco understood that it had been
repeatedly outflanked by the other parties to the dispute,
for example by South Africa's decision to support Sahrawi
self-determination, and was undertaking a serious effort to
broaden its support.



4. (C) Arias suggested the international community's next
steps should remain focused on building confidence,
humanitarian projects, and building up the stature of the
Arab Maghreb Union, setting aside thornier issues for a more
propitious moment. Arias said that if events began to take a
more positive turn, it would be essential for a U.S. figure
of James Baker's stature to replace de Soto as the Special
Representative of the so that the parties would feel
pressure to negotiate. He said he'd heard mention of a
possible Latin American candidate to replace de Soto, but
insisted that only a USG figure would have the political
weight to push the parties forward when necessary.

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COMMENT
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5. (C) Spain has significant strategic interests in seeing a
settlement on Western Sahara in order to remove the main
irritant in Moroccan-Algerian relations and thereby solidify
Spain's unstable southern flank, but domestic political
pressure is another important factor in Moratinos' desire to
move ahead quickly. Zapatero's overtures to Morocco have
accomplished much in terms of improved security cooperation
and diplomatic relations with Rabat, but the GOS has little
to show for it on Western Sahara. This leaves Zapatero open
to opposition criticism that his tilt towards Morocco has
come at the expense of the Sahrawis, whose cause enjoys broad
popular support in Spain. We have tried to convey our
skepticism that a major U.S. figure would be willing to step
in where Baker had been unsuccessful, but expect Moratinos
and others to continue hoping for direct, high-le