Rabat – Horst Köhler, the new Personal Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Western Sahara, has announced his intention to visit Morocco, after conducting a series of meetings with stakeholders on the issue, according to a statement released September 17 by the UN.
Köhler, who officially took up his position on September 8 in New York, held several meetings and consultations this past Saturday, according to the UN’s press release.
“Köhler met with the Secretary-General [Antonio Guterres] and senior United Nations officials, representatives of the parties and neighbors, Member States and the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security,” said the statement.
Guterres “welcomed the intention of his Personal Envoy to travel to the region,” explained the communique, and “he stressed the importance of the visit to help re-launch the political process in a new spirit and dynamic, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2351 (2017).”
The UN’s Secretary-General added that Köhler “looks forward to travelling to the region and engaging with the parties in a spirit of trust and compromise.”
On August 16, Guterres named Köhler as his Personal Envoy, replacing Christopher Ross, who resigned in April 2017 after holding the position since January 2009. In 2012, Morocco declared Ross persona non-grata for his declaration on Morocco’s alleged abuses in the Western Sahara. The kingdom reproached his “unacceptable declarations and initiatives which contravened the prerogatives of its mandate.”
At the time, Moroccan authorities suspected the American diplomat of being behind the efforts to empower the United Nations Mission in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, with a human rights monitoring mechanism.
Despite the intermediation of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reassure the kingdom on the “neutrality, objectivity and impartiality” of UN officials, relations between Morocco and Ross did not improve. During the last years of his mandate, the American diplomat was unsuccessful in bringing together the various parties involved in the Sahara dispute.