Will the next roundtable signal the beginning of negotiations?
In a press conference after the end of the second roundtable on Friday, Kohler commended all the delegations for their commitment and engagement in coming to the second meeting at his request.
Sharing personal remarks, Kohler said that the first roundtable, held in December in Geneva, was seen as a “small, but an encouraging step in the search of a solution to the Western Sahara conflict.”
The envoy said that no one should be surprised when he says that finding a solution to the conflict will not be easy.
“There is still a lot of work ahead of the delegations. Nobody should expect a quick outcome,” said Kohler.
Kohler acknowledged that it is important that for the delegations to be “able to listen to each other, even [when] things get controversial.” He added that it is necessary for the parties to build trust to make progress.
According to Kohler, the roundtable “demonstrated that all delegations are aware that many people, in particular those whose lives are directly affected by this conflict, are placing their hope in this process.” He noted that “the costs of this conflict in terms of human suffering, lack of prospects for youth, and security risks” are high.
“Western Sahara people need and deserve this conflict to end,” Kohler said, calling on the parties to engage seriously in the UN-led political process to find a mutually acceptable political solution to the conflict.
After sharing his thoughts, the personal envoy read the joint press release of the delegations.
The delegations said that they were committed to respecting and engaging in the process. “They agreed to continue discussions in order to identify elements of convergence,” Kholer said, adding that there was “a consensus that a solution to the Sahara issue will benefit the whole Maghreb.”
The delegations also “commended the Personal Envoy’s intention to invite them back again to a meeting according to the same format,” reads the joint press release.
Like at the first roundtable, Kohler seemed positive about the talks.
The second round table, which took place on March 221-22, comes on the heels of the first meeting in December 2018.The second roundtable’s purpose, according to the UN, was for the parties involved in the conflicts to “start approaching elements needed for building an enduring solution based on compromise.”
Thus far, each party sticks to its position, with Morocco reiterating that the autonomy plan is the only option on the table, and the Polisario still calling on the UN to hold a referendum on self-determination. Meanwhile, Algeria has not budged in its attempts to deny any major involvement in the conflict.
Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita, who is leading the Moroccan delegation, said in January that the autonomy plan aims to integrate Sahrawis into development plans and to preserve the Moroccan Sahrawi heritage.