Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Cohen: Changes Offer Positive Sign for Western Sahara

And the Polisario is faced with a mounting protest from within, particularly from its youth groups and their frustration over the Sahara stalemate. The recent “re-election” of the Polisario’s leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, with 96-plus percent of the vote, seemed an anachronism, a throw-back to a period — not long ago — when elections across much of North Africa were rigged.

The many crises spawned or exacerbated by the unresolved Sahara issue — human trafficking, drug trafficking, al-Qaida recruitment — have now reached a level where the reformed, democratic governments in the region realize they must be confronted.

Lastly, Algeria is becoming increasingly isolated by its pro-Polisario position. All across North Africa, democracy and promotion of human rights are marching forward. Algeria continues to lag far behind. If the Sahara conflict is resolved, it will pave the way for a “new Algeria” joining with its neighbors, most notably Morocco, to promote social and economic integration in what promises to be a much more stable region — a dynamic one in the best sense of the word.

So we hope that the parties now sitting together in Manhasset are serious about this session being very much unlike all those others. Both parties need to be serious. But only one, thus far, has brought forward a serious proposal aimed at a resolution. At the very least, those who oppose it need to explain why and present a workable alternative.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

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