Rabat - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is cautiously optimistic about the ongoing UN-led process to broker the longstanding territorial dispute in Western Sahara.
Rabat – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is cautiously optimistic about the ongoing UN-led process to broker the longstanding territorial dispute in Western Sahara.
With the UN set to discuss the dossier later this month, Guterres, who was commenting yesterday on the UN schedule for Western Sahara, insisted that the UN’s priority is to “maintain the momentum achieved last year.”
A blend of optimism and caution after months of inactivity and perceived stasis in the Western Sahara dossier, Guterres’s statement comes as the UN struggles to find a suitable replacement for Host Kohler, the latest and arguably the most effective UN envoy for Western Sahara in recent years.
Kohler, who was appointed in 2017 as the UN Secretary General’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, breathed new life into a halting resolution process in the intricate Western Sahara question.
In just two years, the German diplomat produced unprecedented diplomatic breakthroughs, including the inclusion of Algeria and Mauritania as full-fledged participants in the political resolution talks alongside Morocco and the Polisario Front.
Since his resignation in May, however, the momentum he helped build seemed to have given space to an extended period of hesitation, stagnation, and uncertainty.
But Guterres is hopeful. As he sees it, the long period of silence that followed Kohler’s resignation was necessary for seriously thinking about the best replacement for the German diplomat.
While Guterres did not say whether a suitable replacement has been found yet, he insisted that the main challenge of the next personal envoy is keeping alive the hope and diplomatic efficiency that Kohler helped rekindle in his two-year tenure. “It is essential that the momentum is maintained,” he declared.
Guterres asserted, however, that the climate of suspicion and mistrust persisting in the relationship between conflicting parties may still be a major obstacle for a lasting, politically negotiated resolution. In addition to maintaining the momentum achieved under Kohler, the next envoy should also invest in robust trust-building initiatives, he noted.
Meanwhile, the prevailing sentiment among UN diplomats is that it will be particularly hard to find a suitable replacement for Kohler.
Evoking the complexity of the Western Sahara question, one unnamed UN diplomat hinted at, according to Moroccan outlet H24, the difficulty of finding a diplomat with the same profile as Kohler. “We need someone with the right skills and experience… and willing to be involved in this whole thing,” the diplomat said.