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to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. HP 605344-001 Laptop Keyboard

The population is estimated at just over 500,000,[5] many of whom live in El Aaiún (also spelled Laâyoune), the largest city in Western Sahara.

Occupied by Spain since the late 19th century, the Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963 after a Moroccan demand.[7][8][9] It is the most populous territory on that list, HP Pavilion DV7-3065dx Laptop Keyboard

and by far the largest in area. In 1965, the UN General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Western Sahara, asking Spain to decolonise the territory.[10] One year later, a new resolution was passed by the General Assembly requesting that a referendum be held by Spain on self-determination.[8] In 1975, HP G56-118CA Laptop Keyboard

Spain relinquished the administrative control of the territory to a joint administration by Morocco (which had formally claimed the territory since 1957)[11] and Mauritania.[8] A war erupted between those countries and the Sahrawi national liberation movement, the Polisario Front. It proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with agovernment-in-exile in Tindouf, Algeria. Mauritania withdrew in 1979 and Morocco eventually secured effective control of most of the territory, including all the major cities and natural resources. TOSHIBA V000120240 Laptop Keyboard

Since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 1991, most of the territory (including the entire Atlantic coast line) has been controlled by Morocco and the remainder by the SADR, strongly backed by Algeria.[12]Internationally, countries such as the United States and Russia have taken a generally ambiguous and neutral position on each side's claims and have pressed both parties to agree on a peaceful resolution. ACER Aspire 5742 Laptop Keyboard

Both Morocco and Polisario have sought to boost their claims by accumulating formal recognition, essentially from African, Asian, and Latin American states in the developing world. The Polisario Front has won formal recognition for SADR from 82 states, and was extended membership in the African Union, while Morocco has won recognition or support for its position from several African governments and from most of the Arab League.[13][14] LENOVO IdeaPad S10 20015 Laptop Keyboard

In both instances, recognitions have, over the past two decades, been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends.[citation needed] As of 2006, no other member state of the United Nations has recognized Moroccan sovereigntyover Western Sahara.[15]

The word "sahara" صحراء is an Arabic word that simply means "desert".SONY VAIO VGN-FS415M Laptop Keyboard

The original and earliest inhabitants of the Western Sahara are the Berber people. This is evident from toponymy like place names and regions' names, and also from tribes' names.

Other early inhabitants of the Western Sahara may be the Bafour[16] and later the Serer and some Arabian tribes. The Bafour were later replaced or absorbed by Berber-speaking populations which eventually merged in turn with migrating Beni Hassan Arabian tribe. TOSHIBA NSK-TK001 Laptop Keyboard

The arrival of Islam in the 8th century played a major role in the development of the Maghreb region. Trade developed further, and the territory may have been one of the routes for caravans, especially between Marrakesh and Tombouctou in Mali. SONY VAIO VPC-F12 Laptop Keyboard

In the 11th century, the Maqil Arabian tribes (fewer than 200 individuals) settled in Morocco (mainly in the Draa valley, between the Melwiya river, Tafilalet and Taourirt).[17] Towards the end of the Almohads rule, the Beni Hassan tribe (a sub-tribe of the Maqil) were called by the local ruler of the Sous to quell a rebellion, they settled in the Sous Ksoursand controlled such cities as Taroudant.[17] SONY VAIO VPCF12 Laptop Keyboard

During the Merinid rule, the Beni Hassan rebelled but were defeated by the Sultan and escaped beyond the Saguia el-Hamra dry river.[17][18] The Beni Hassan then were at constant war with the Lamtunanomadic Berbers of the Sahara. Over roughly five centuries, through a complex process of acculturation and mixing seen elsewhere in the Maghreb and North Africa, some of the indigenous Berber tribes mixed with the Maqil Arabian tribes and formed a culture unique to Morocco and Mauritania.[citation needed]  HP 519265-001 Laptop Keyboard

According to the historian David Galvan, "The oral historical record, written accounts by early Arab and European explorers, and physical anthropological evidence suggest that the various Serer peoples migrated south from the Fuuta Tooro region (Senegal River valley) beginning around the eleventh century, when Islam first came across the Sahara."[19]:p.51 Over generations these people, possibly Pulaar speaking herders originally, migrated through Wolof areas and entered the Siin and Saluum river valleys. HP 540 Laptop Keyboard

Serer medieval history to the present is dominated by resisting Islamization. A few still adhere to the tenets of Serer religion.

After an agreement among the European colonial powers at the Berlin Conference in 1884 on the division of spheres of influence in Africa, Spain seized control of The Western Sahara and established it as a Spanish colony.[20] Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520 Laptop Keyboard

After 1939 this area was administered by Spanish Morocco. As a consequence, Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri, the Chief of Cabinet, General Secretary of the Government and Head of the palace for the caliph of Spanish Morocco cooperated with the Spaniards to select governors in that area. The Saharan lords who were already in prominent positions such as the members of Maa El Ainain family provided a list recommending new governors. ACER Aspire 7736ZG Laptop Keyboard

Together with the Spanish High Commissioner, Belbachir selected from the list of recommendations.[citation needed] During the annual celebration of Muhammad's birthday, these lords paid their due respects to the caliph to show loyalty to the Moroccan monarchy.[citation needed] As time went by, Spanish colonial rule began to unravel with the general wave of decolonization after World War II, SAMSUNG N150 Laptop Keyboard

 which saw Europeans lose control of North African and sub-Saharan African possessions and protectorates. Spanish decolonization in particular began rather late, but internal political and social pressures for it in mainland Spain built up towards the end of Francisco Franco's rule, in the context of the global trend towards completedecolonization. SONY VAIO VPC-F12 laptop keyboard

Spain began rapidly and even chaotically divesting itself of most of its remaining colonial possessions. After initially being violently opposed to decolonization, Spain began to give in and by 1974–75 issued promises of a referendum on independence.  Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520 laptop keyboard

At the same time, Morocco and Mauritania, which had historical claims of sovereignty over the territory based on competing traditional claims, argued that the territory was artificially separated from their territories by the European colonial powers. Algeria, which also bordered the territory, viewed these demands with suspicion, influenced also by its long-running rivalry with Morocco. Compaq Presario CQ42 laptop keyboard

After arguing for a process of decolonization guided by the United Nations, the Algerian government under Houari Boumédiènne committed itself in 1975 to assisting the Polisario Front, which opposed both Moroccan and Mauritanian claims and demanded full independence.

The UN attempted to settle these disputes through a visiting mission in late 1975, as well as a verdict from theInternational Court of Justice (ICJ), FUJITSU Amilo Mini Ui 3520 Laptop Keyboard

which declared that Western Sahara had historical links with Morocco and Mauritania, but population of this territory possessed the right of self-determination. On 6 November 1975 the Green March into Western Sahara began when 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross the border in a peaceful march.  SAMSUNG X20 Laptop Keyboard

A few days before, on 31 October, Moroccan troops invaded Western Sahara from the northwest[citation needed].

In the waning days of General Franco's rule, and after the Green March, the Spanish government signed a tripartite agreementwith Morocco and Mauritania as it moved to transfer the territory on 14 November 1975. SONY VAIO VGN-NW11S/S Laptop Keyboard

Thus the accords foresaw a bipartite administration, and Morocco and Mauritania each moved to annex the territories, with Morocco taking control of the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara as its Southern Provinces and Mauritania taking control of the southern third as Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Spain terminated its presence in Spanish Sahara within three months, even repatriating Spanish corpses from its cemeteries.[21] Lenovo 3000 Y500 Laptop Keyboard

The Moroccan and Mauritanian moves, however, met staunch opposition from the Polisario, which had by now gained backing from Algeria. In 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal due to pressure from Polisario, including a bombardment of its capital and other economic targets by the Polisario, Morocco extended its control to the rest of the territory and gradually contained the guerrillas by setting up the extensive sand-berm in the desert (known as the Border Wall or Moroccan Wall) to exclude guerrilla fighters. GATEWAY AEPA6TAU111 Laptop Keyboard

Hostilities ceased in a 1991 cease-fire, overseen by the peacekeeping mission MINURSO, under the terms of a UN Settlement Plan.

The referendum, originally scheduled for 1992, foresaw giving the local population the option between independence or affirming integration with Morocco,  FUJITSU CP254840-01 Laptop Keyboard

but it quickly stalled. In 1997, the Houston Agreement attempted to revive the proposal for a referendum but likewise has hitherto not had success. As of 2010, negotiations over terms have not resulted in any substantive action. At the heart of the dispute lies the question of who qualifies to be registered to participate in the referendum, and, since about the year 2000, Morocco considers that since there is no agreement on persons entitled to vote HP Pavilion dv6-3178ee Laptop Keyboard

, a referendum is not possible. Meanwhile, Polisario still insisted on a referendum with independence as a clear option, without offering a solution to the problem of who is qualified to be registered to participate in it. ASUS X53S Laptop Keyboard

Both sides blame each other for the stalling of the referendum. The Polisario has insisted on only allowing those found on the 1974 Spanish Census lists (see below) to vote, while Morocco has insisted that the census was flawed by evasion and sought the inclusion of members of Sahrawi tribes which escape from Spanish invasion to the north of Morocco by the 19th century.  FUJITSU Lifebook T4220 Laptop Keyboard

Efforts by the UN special envoys to find a common ground for both parties did not succeed. By 1999 the UN had identified about 85,000 voters, with nearly half of them in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara or Southern Morocco, and the others scattered between the Tindouf refugee camps, ASUS F3F Laptop Keyboard

Mauritania and other places of exile. Polisario accepted this voter list, as it had done with the previous list presented by the UN (both of them originally based on the Spanish census of 1974), but Morocco refused and, as rejected voter candidates began a mass-appeals procedure, insisted that each application be scrutinized individually. This again brought the process to a halt.

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 [22] By 2001, the process had effectively stalemated and the UN Secretary-General asked the parties for the first time to explore other, third-way solutions. Indeed, shortly after the Houston Agreement (1997), Morocco officially declared that it was "no longer necessary" to include an option of independence on the ballot, offering instead autonomy. TOSHIBA Satellite L750-ST4N02 Laptop Keyboard

 Erik Jensen, who played an administrative role in MINURSO, wrote that neither side would agree to a voter registration in which they were destined to lose (see Western Sahara: Anatomy of a Stalemate). ASUS X53S laptop keyboard

As personal envoy of the Secretary-General, James Baker visited all sides and produced the document known as the "Baker Plan".[23] This was discussed by the United Nations Security Council in 2000, and envisioned an autonomous Western Sahara Authority (WSA), which would be followed after five years by the referendum. HP 633183-001 laptop keyboard

Every person present in the territory would be allowed to vote, regardless of birthplace and with no regard to the Spanish census. It was rejected by both sides, although it was initially derived from a Moroccan proposal. According to Baker's draft, tens of thousands of post-annexation immigrants from Morocco proper (viewed by Polisario as settlers but by Morocco as legitimate inhabitants of the area) would be granted the vote in the Sahrawi independence referendum, Lenovo 3000 C200 laptop keyboard

and the ballot would be split three ways by the inclusion of an unspecified "autonomy", further undermining the independence camp. Morocco was also allowed to keep its army in the area and retain control over all security issues during both the autonomy years and the election. In 2002, the Moroccan king stated that the referendum idea was "out of date" since it "can not be implemented";[24] Polisario retorted that that was only because of the King's refusal to allow it to take place. TOSHIBA Satellite M645-S4070 laptop keyboard

In 2003, a new version of the plan was made official, with some additions spelling out the powers of the WSA, making it less reliant on Moroccan devolution. It also provided further detail on the referendum process in order to make it harder to stall or subvert. This second draft, commonly known as Baker II, was accepted by the Polisario as a "basis of negotiations" to the surprise of many.[25] This appeared to abandon Polisario's previous position of only negotiating based on the standards of voter identification from 1991 (i.e. the Spanish census). Packard Bell Easynote TK85 laptop keyboard

After that, the draft quickly garnered widespread international support, culminating in the UN Security Council's unanimous endorsement of the plan in the summer of 2003.

Baker resigned his post at the United Nations in 2004; his term did not see the crisis resolved.[26] His resignation followed several months of failed attempts to get Morocco to enter into formal negotiations on the plan, but he met with rejection. HP Pavilion dv6-2124el laptop keyboard

The new king, Mohammed VI of Morocco, opposes any referendum on independence, and has said Morocco will never agree to one: "We shall not give up one inch of our beloved Sahara, not a grain of its sand."[27]  HP 605344-001 laptop keyboard

Instead, he proposes, through an appointed advisory body Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), a self-governing Western Sahara as an autonomous community within Morocco. His father, Hassan II of Morocco, initially supported the referendum idea in principle in 1982, and in signed contracts with Polisario and the UN in 1991 and 1997. SONY VAIO VGN-NW250D/W laptop keyboard

No major powers have expressed interest in forcing the issue, however, and Morocco has shown little interest in a real referendum.

The UN has put forth no replacement strategy after the breakdown of Baker II, and renewed fighting has been raised as a possibility. In 2005, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported increased military activity on both sides of the front and breaches of several cease-fire provisions against strengthening military fortifications.  Packard Bell PEW91 laptop keyboard

Morocco has repeatedly tried to get Algeria into bilateral negotiations, based on its view of Polisario as the cat's paw of the Algerian military. It has received vocal support from France and occasionally (and currently) from the United States. SONY VAIO VGN-FS115Z laptop keyboard

These negotiations would define the exact limits of a Western Sahara autonomy under Moroccan rule but only after Morocco's "inalienable right" to the territory was recognized as a precondition to the talks. The Algerian government has consistently refused, claiming it has neither the will nor the right to negotiate on the behalf of the Polisario Front. TOSHIBA Satellite L675-S7044 laptop keyboard

Demonstrations and riots by supporters of independence and/or a referendum broke out in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara in May 2005 and in parts of southern Morocco (notably the town of Assa). They were met by police. Several international human rights organizations expressed concern at what they termed abuse by Moroccan security forces, and a number of Sahrawi activists have been jailed. HP G42-466LA laptop keyboard

Pro-independence Sahrawi sources, including the Polisario, have given these demonstrations the name "Independence Intifada", while most sources have tended to see the events as being of limited importance. International press and other media coverage has been sparse, and reporting is complicated by the Moroccan government's policy of strictly controlling independent media coverage within the territory. SONY VAIO VGN-FS415M laptop keyboard

Demonstrations and protests still occur, even after Morocco declared in February 2006 that it was contemplating a plan for devolving a limited variant of autonomy to the territory but still explicitly refused any referendum on independence. COMPAQ Presario CQ50-106CA laptop keyboard

As of January 2007, the plan had not been made public, though the Moroccan government claimed that it was more or less complete.[28]

Polisario has intermittently threatened to resume fighting, referring to the Moroccan refusal of a referendum as a breach of the cease-fire terms, but most observers seem to consider armed conflict unlikely without the green light from Algeria, which houses the Sahrawis' refugee camps and has been the main military sponsor of the movement. SONY VAIO VGN-FS415M laptop keyboard

In April 2007, the government of Morocco suggested that a self-governing entity, through the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), should govern the territory with some degree of autonomy for Western Sahara. The project was presented to the UN Security Council in mid-April 2007. The stalemating of the Moroccan proposal options has led the UN in the recent "Report of the UN Secretary-General" to ask the parties to enter into direct and unconditional negotiations to reach a mutually accepted political solution.[29] ACER Aspire 5810TZ-4657 laptop keyboard

In October 2010 Gadaym Izik camp was set up near Laayoune as a protest by displaced Sahrawi people about their living conditions. It was home to more than 12,000 people. In November 2010 Moroccan security forces entered Gadaym Izik camp in the early hours of the morning, using helicopters and water cannon to force people to leave.  HP HDX18-1050EB laptop keyboard

The Polisario Front said Moroccan security forces had killed a 26-year-old protester at the camp, a claim denied by Morocco. Protesters in Laayoune threw stones at police and set fire to tires and vehicles. Several buildings, including a TV station, were also set on fire. Moroccan officials said five security personnel had been killed in the unrest.[30] IBM 42T3265 laptop keyboard

On 15 November 2010, the Moroccan government accused the Algerian secret services of orchestrating and financing the Gadaym Izik camp with the intent to destabilize the region. The Spanish press was accused of mounting a campaign of disinformation to support the Saharwi initiative, and all foreign reporters were either prevented from travelling or else expelled from the area. [31] The protest coincided with a fresh round of negotiations at the UN.[32] TOSHIBA NB100 laptop keyboard

The legal status of the territory and the question of sovereignty remains unresolved; the territory is contested betweenMorocco and the Polisario Front. It is considered a non self-governed territory by the United Nations. SONY VAIO VGN-N11S laptop keyboard

The government of Morocco is a formally constitutional monarchy under Mohammed VI with a bicameral parliament. The last elections to the lower house were deemed reasonably free and fair by international observers[citation needed]. DELL NSK-DD101 laptop keyboard

Certain powers such as the capacity to appoint the government and to dissolve parliament remain in the hands of the monarch. The Morocco-controlled parts of Western Sahara are divided into several provinces treated as integral parts of the kingdom. The Moroccan government heavily subsidizes the Saharan provinces under its control with cut-rate fuel and related subsidies, to appease nationalist dissent and attract immigrants from Sahrawis and other communities in Morocco proper.[33]  Compaq Mini 730EA laptop keyboard

The exiled government of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a form of single-party parliamentary and presidential system, but according to its constitution, this will be changed into a multi-party system at the achievement of independence. It is presently based at the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which it controls.  SONY VGN-FE48E laptop keyboard

It also controls the part of Western Sahara to the east of the Moroccan Wall, known as the liberated territories. This area has a very small population, estimated to be approximately 30,000 nomads.[34] The Moroccan government views it as a no-man's land patrolled by UN troops. The SADR government whose troops also patrol the area have proclaimed a village in the area, Bir Lehlou, as SADR's provisional capital.

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During the war years (1975–91), both sides accused each other of targeting civilians. Moroccan claims of Polisario terrorism has generally little to no support abroad, with the US, EU, AU and UN all refusing to include the group on their lists of terrorist organizations. Polisario leaders maintain that they are ideologically opposed to terrorism, and insist that collective punishment and forced disappearances among Sahrawi civilians [38]  Packard Bell Easynote TK85 laptop keyboard

should be considered state terrorism on the part of Morocco.[39] Both Morocco and the Polisario additionally accuse each other of violating the human rights of the populations under their control, in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, respectively. Morocco and organizations such as France Libertés consider Algeria to be directly responsible for any crimes committed on its territory, and accuse the country of having been directly involved in such violations.[40] HP Pavilion dv6-3015tx laptop keyboard

The Western Sahara was partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania in April 1976, with Morocco acquiring the northern two-thirds of the territory.[7] When Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979, HP Pavilion dv6-2070eo laptop keyboard

Morocco moved to occupy that sector shortly thereafter and has since asserted administrative control over the whole territory.[7] The official Moroccan government name for Western Sahara is the "Southern Provinces," which indicates Río de Oro and Saguia el-Hamra. HP Mini 110-1036TU laptop keyboard

Not under control of the Moroccan government is the area that lies between the border wall and the actual border with Algeria. (for map see Minurso map) The Polisario Front claims to run this as the Free Zone on behalf of the SADR. The area is patrolled by Polisario forces,[68] and access is restricted, even among Sahrawis, due to the harsh climate of the Sahara, the military conflict and the abundance of land mines. SONY VAIO VGN-NW11S/S laptop keyboard

Landmine Action UK undertook preliminary survey work by visiting the Polisario-controlled area of Western Sahara in October 2005 and February–March 2006. A field assessment in the vicinity of Bir Lahlou, Tifariti and the berms revealed that the densest concentrations of mines are in front of the berms. Mines were laid in zigzags up to one meter apart, and in some parts of the berms, there are three rows of mines. HP Pavilion dv5-1026eo laptop keyboard

There are also berms in the Moroccan-controlled zone, around Dakhla and stretching from Boujdour, including Smara on the Moroccan border. However, mine-laying was not restricted to the vicinity of the berms; occupied settlements throughout the Polisario-controlled areas, such as Bir Lahlou and Tifariti, are ringed by mines laid by Moroccan forces.[69] HP Mini 110-1140TU laptop keyboard

Despite this, the area is traveled and inhabited by many Sahrawi nomads from the Tindouf refugee camps of Algeria and the Sahrawi communities in Mauritania.[34]United Nations MINURSO forces are also present in the area. The UN forces oversee the cease-fire between Polisario and Morocco agreed upon in the 1991Settlement Plan.[70] HP Mini 210 laptop keyboard

The Polisario forces (of the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army, SPLA) in the area are divided into seven "military regions", each controlled by a top commander reporting to the President of the Polisario proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.[68][71] TOSHIBA Satellite M645-S4050 laptop keyboard

The total size of the Polisario's guerrilla army present in this area is unknown, but it is believed to number a few thousand men, despite many combantants being demobilized due to the cease-fire.[71] These forces are dug into permanent positions, such as gun emplacements, defensive trenches and underground military bases, as well as conducting mobile patrols of the territory.[68][72][not in citation given] COMPAQ Presario CQ50Z-100 CTO laptop keyboard

Major Sahrawi political events, such as Polisario congresses and sessions of the Sahrawi National Council (the SADR parliament in exile) are held in the Free Zone (especially in Tifariti and Bir Lehlou), since it is politically and symbolically important to conduct political affairs on Sahrawi territory. In 2005, MINURSO lodged a complaint to the Security Council of the United Nations for "military maneuvers with real fire which extends to restricted areas" by Morocco.[73] ACER NSK-H3M1D laptop keyboard

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