The UN is intent on keeping the newfound momentum in Western Sahara, but a deepening climate of suspicion suggests there remains a long way to go.
Rabat – The UN Security Council’s Resolution 2468 on Western Sahara’s peacekeeping mission has called all parties to prioritize compromise, dialogue, and pragmatism. But the document’s language may embolden some to see an organized drift towards Morocco’s position.
Faced with suspicions of business as usual, the Security Council seems determined to keep the new momentum in the Western Sahara settlement process. Resolution 2468 maintained neutral language, respecting the tradition of the UN. However, many of the few new additions reiterate points Morocco has been making, allowing a Morocco-friendly reading of the resolution.
Prioritizing compromise-based political dialogue
Amid speculations about the draft resolution over the weekend, a source told Morocco World News that the first draft adopted Morocco-friendly language.
Dismissing earlier reports that the report would include a Morocco-hostile clause calling attention to Morocco’s allegedly grim human rights record in Western Sahara, the source revealed “none of the sticking points” of the first draft were against Morocco’s position. If adopted in that format, the source suggested, the resolution would actually reiterate a number of Morocco-friendly appeals.
The information turned out to be exact, although the text of the final draft is filled with the usual diplomatic language aimed at pleasing all parties.
Like in previous resolutions, the latest document calls on all parties to show genuine commitment to the political process and come to the negotiations “without preconditions and in good faith.”
The text welcomed “the new momentum” created by the Geneva meetings and called on all parties to take into account “the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments with a view to achieving a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution.”
Other resolutions used to refer to Algeria and Mauritania as only “neighboring countries.” The goal was to distinguish the two countries from Morocco and the Polisario Front, which were more directly referred to as “conflicting parties.”
In the new resolution, however, all the four parties are accorded equal importance and weight. The draft reiterated “its call upon Morocco, the Frente Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania to cooperate more fully with each other, including through building additional trust.” More important, however, was the document’s repeated insistence on a “compromise-based political” process rather than a referendum.
In what reads like a striking echo to one of Morocco’s repeated appeals in recent months, the draft “emphasized the need to achieve a realistic, practicable and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based on compromise and the importance of aligning the strategic focus of MINURSO.” It added, “Realism and a spirit of compromise” by the parties are essential to achieve progress in negotiations.
On the human rights question, rather than pointing fingers at Morocco, the draft called on all parties to shoulder their “roles and responsibilities.”
The document highlighted “the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps” while “encouraging the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights.”
There have already been complaints in pro-Polisario circles that what UN diplomats call the “new momentum” is nothing but a planned validation of Morocco’s agenda. According to the argument, there have been secret meetings between Moroccan and UN representatives to push for a settlement that is more in favor of Morocco.
With this new resolution, some may feel emboldened in their suspicions. As long as the UN is concerned, however, according to MWN’s source, the goal is to move forward and gradually break with decades of ineffective diplomacy.
That the UN is determined to maintain the “new momentum” under the auspices of Horst Kohler is abundantly clear in Resolution 2468. Horst Kohler, the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, has notified the four parties of a third roundtable meeting in Geneva.
But it remains to be seen how the UN plans to water down the seemingly unbridgeable differences between Morocco’s and Polisario’s positions and broker the much-awaited settlement.