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Four Parties Agree To Western Sahara Talks

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Four Parties Agree To Western Sahara Talks

Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front have accepted a UN invitation to hold talks in December on ending the decades-old conflict in Western Sahara, according to UN officials.

The United Nations has repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the north African territory, where Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario fought for control from 1975 to 1991.

Seeking to re-launch the political process, UN envoy Horst Koehler has invited the four parties to Geneva on December 5-6 for a first round of meetings that could pave the way to formal negotiations.

Koehler, a former German president and ex-director of the International Monetary Fund, last month sent letters of invitation to the talks and set an October 20 deadline to respond.

Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front told the United Nations they would attend earlier this month. Algeria and Mauritania also recently said they would take part, according to a UN official.

The last round of UN-sponsored informal talks was held in 2012.

The preliminary talks may quickly hit a wall as Morocco maintains that negotiations on a settlement should focus on its proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara.

The Polisario insists that the status of the territory should be decided in a referendum on independence.

Algeria also maintains that a solution to the conflict must uphold the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.

The United Nations brokered a ceasefire deal between Morocco and the Polisario in 1990 that provided for a referendum, but the vote never materialized.

A small peacekeeping mission of some 700 personnel is monitoring the ceasefire line but the Security Council has put fresh pressure on the sides to return to the negotiating table.

A settlement in Western Sahara would allow the UN mission there, known as MINURSO, to end its mission at a time when the United States is seeking to reduce the cost of peace operations.

In his invitation to the parties, seen by AFP, Koehler asked the sides to submit proposals for talks and has described the Geneva meeting as a round-table discussion.

The planned talks will be discussed at the Security Council later this month as it weighs a mandate renewal for MINURSO.

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African News

Sudan’s President Visits Damascus For The First Time

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Sudan's President Visits Damascus For The First Time

For the first time, an Arab leader, Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has visited Damascus since the Syrian war began eight years ago.

He was received in the capital by Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. The two leaders are said to have discussed relations and issues of common interest to Arab countries.

Al-Bashir is reported to have expressed the hope at their meeting that Syria will soon regain its leading role in the region.  He is also said to have promised his country’s support to protect Syria’s territorial integrity.

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African News

Ghana Opens First Round Of Bidding For Exploratory Licenses

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Ghana Opens First Round Of Bidding For Exploratory Licenses

President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the opening of the country’s first open and competitive round of bidding for energy exploration licenses, with three offshore blocks being offered. Previously, Ghana had awarded leases through a closed negotiation process.

All of the blocks are located in ghana’s central basin. To undertake the exploration and extraction.

Bidders have to show financial capacity and technical expertise and present a timetable for their exploration and development program.

President Akufo-Addo also announced a review of all licensing agreements covering blocks that were inactive, where concession holders had not undertaken the required exploratory or development work.

This move could see a number of blocks re-enter the market, either through competitive bidding or direct negotiations, generating further interest in the upstream component of the industry from both independent operators and major players.

Although the development of these offshore sites will require significant investment, rising international oil prices could well justify the expense.

Development of major offshore oilfields is set to boost export earnings and stimulate investment inflows.

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Namibia National Council Chairperson Tasks MPs On Safe Driving

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Namibia National Council Chairperson Tasks MPs On Safe Driving

As the Namibian National Council adjourned for the holidays on Thursday, chairperson margaret mensah-williams gave an unusual advise to members of parliament. She asked them to take the lead by being safe drivers and obey traffic rules.  She especially harped on obeying speed limits.

She referred to some highways in the country that have historically recorded high numbers of accidents, some of which had involved members of parliament.  One of such fatal accidents recently occurred on the country’s b-one highway.

Mensah-williams advised everyone to be responsible drivers this holiday season, asking drivers to be more patient on the roads.  She said it is unacceptable that road accidents have become the leading causes of death in the country.

She warns against drinking and driving and gender-based violence, appealing to namibians not to rape, kill or abuse their partners and children in anyway whatsoever.

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