With Algeria now a full-fledged part of the Western Sahara conflict, the UN secretary general’s comments come to revive the waning hope of a new momentum.
Rabat – The UN secretary-general has once again underlined Algeria’s front-seat role in the Western Sahara conflict, reiterating the UN’s position on the country as a full-fledged party to the crisis and resolution talks.
“In a report addressed to the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, once again pointed out the role of Algeria as the main party to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara,” Moroccan state media reported earlier today.
Guterres’ report first summarizes the most notable developments in the Western Sahara dossier in the past decade. The report lists UNSC Resolutions 2440, 2468, and 2494, all of which call for a realistic and compromise-based political solution to the long-running territorial dispute.
Until recently, Algeria and Mauritania, now considered integral to the UN’s efforts in Western Sahara, were only referred to as “observer states.” That status allowed the two countries — especially Algeria, the Polisario Front’s primary supporter — large maneuvering room, including for plausible deniability or presenting Morocco and the Polisario Front as the main and only parties to the dispute.
With the “new realities” and new diplomatic developments witnessed since 2006, however, the UN secretary-general’s report suggested that the old paradigm is no longer a tenable position for genuine resolution efforts in Western Sahara.
Guterres cited the recent Geneva roundtables between Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and the Polisario Front. He insisted that having the four parties commit to similar peace talks is to date the most promising avenue for a sustainable and politically-negotiated solution.
The suggestion that post-2006 developments — including the latest UNSC Resolutions’ repeated calls for “pragmatism,” “realism,” and “compromise” — should be the starting point of any future peacemaking efforts in Western Sahara, can be read as a nod to Rabat’s autonomy proposal.
Morocco’s Autonomy Plan, which the country proposed in 2007, has gained wide currency in UN diplomatic circles in recent years, with an increasing chorus of countries and international observers describing it as a “serious” and “credible” route to peace and sustainable resolution.
Guterres’ comments come amid signs of concerns and doubts over the future of the Kohler-initiated momentum. Horst Kohler’s appointment in 2017 as the UN secretary-general’s personal envoy in Western Sahara breathed new life into what then looked like a halting and doomed resolution process.
He engineered and headed the Geneva roundtables, convinced Algeria and Mauritania to be full-fledged participants in the peace talks with Morocco and the Polisario Front, and fairly successfully warned the four parties against coming to the negotiating table with “ulterior motives.”
In October of last year, the UN secretary-general addressed the future of that Kohler-engineered momentum, saying that the UN’s challenge in Western Sahara will be to keep Kohler’s breakthroughs alive and capitalize on them for more diplomatic advances. “It is essential that the momentum is maintained,” the UN chief said back then.
He reiterated that point in his address to the General Assembly this week, revealing that the Security Council and a host of UN diplomats have been working on the Western Sahara dossier to convince all the conflicting parties to commit to a politically negotiated solution.