The UN has described the search for a new replacement for Kohler as a “critical job.”
Rabat – The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has urged the UN to speed up the process of appointing a new envoy for Western Sahara.
Blinken made his request during a virtual meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guteress on Monday.
The UN has repeatedly said that it is in search of a new envoy for Western Sahara following the resignation of Horst Kohler in May 2019.
Kohler cited health reasons for his resignation amid important developments in the conflict.
The former special envoy for Western Sahara had managed to convince Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and the Polisario Front to sit at the same negotiating table as a prelude to a “compromise-based” political solution.
The parties to the conflict had two roundtable discussions in Geneva, signaling a potential breakthrough in the diplomatic gridlock surrounding the Western Sahara question.
There were discernible hopes that more talks would follow the Geneva meetings, only for Kohler to abruptly throw the towel in and denting enthusiasm about the UN-led political process’ ability to commit the parties to a mutually acceptable and lasting political solution.
Some observers have since argued that Kohler’s resignation was due to the lack of a clear vision about effectively ending the Sahara conflict. According to this reading, the gulf in aspirations and requirements between the conflicting parties was such that Kohler, like some others before him, elected to desert a sinking ship.
The position for a special envoy has been vacant since the resignation of Kohler, prompting even more concerns among observers and diplomats.
Meanwhile, the UN has repeatedly reassured the international community; when asked why it is taking so long to find a new Western Sahara envoy, UN officials typically emphasize that the post is “critical” and that the search is still ongoing for a suitable replacement for Kohler.
In his Monday meeting with the UN Secretary-General, Blinken renewed the US support for the UN-led political process.
A number of Polisario sympathizers have in recent weeks urged the Biden administration to reverse the US’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
While Blinken did not dwell on the US’s current position on Western Sahara, his language gave ample indication that Washington intends to go through with the previous administration’s proclamation on Western Sahara.
Former President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory on December 10, a few weeks before departing the White House.
Since then, a shrinking list of parties that support Polisario’s independence claims have been calling on Biden to review Trump’s decision and go hard on Morocco.
In response, Biden’s administration has given signs that no change will be announced with regards to the US’ position in Western Sahara.
One such sign has been the adoption of Morocco’s integral map by a number of US government-affiliated websites, including that of the US State Department and the CIA.
On February 22, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said there is “no update” about the US’ position regarding Morocco’s sovereignty over the region.
“I think what we have said broadly still applies,” Price said at a press conference when asked whether the Biden White House will reconsider the terms of the former administration’s Western Sahara proclamation.
He also said that the US supports the international community’s efforts to resolve “the dispute in Morocco.”
Foreign policy expert Samir Bennis said in a recent analysis that Price’s expression is of “of capital political importance because it denotes that the conflict is taking place in Morocco and not between Morocco and a territory that does not belong to it.”
The analyst emphasized that the statement is “a clear declaration of the new administration’s intentions and shows that it considers Western Sahara as an integral part of Moroccan territory.”