Morocco and Western Sahara's independence movement opened a fresh round of talks near New York on Thursday to seek progress on Africa's longest-running territorial dispute, United Nations officials said.
Negotiators from Morocco and the Polisario Front are holding three days of informal UN-mediated discussions at a secluded private estate at Manhasset on Long Island.
Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony in northwest Africa that was annexed by Morocco in 1975, sparking a rebellion by Polisario. The UN brokered a cease-fire in 1991, but no political settlement has followed.
Seven earlier rounds of formal and informal talks since 2007 have produced no movement on the core issue. Rabat is offering self-rule to Sahara within Morocco, but Polisario demands a referendum with full independence as one option.
The last round of talks at Manhasset last month resulted in agreement to pursue limited confidence-building measures, such as easing visits between families divided by the conflict, and to step up the pace of negotiations.
UN mediator Christopher Ross said at the time that the two sides had agreed to pursue "innovative approaches" to the dispute, but no details have so far emerged.
Western Sahara, a thinly populated desert tract about the size of Britain, has rich fishing grounds off its coast and reserves of phosphates, used to make fertilizer and detergent. It may also have oil and gas reserves.
The delegations at Manhasset are led by Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri for Morocco and Khatri Addu for Polisario, officials said.