Sahara-UN: Ban Ki-moon Expected Early March in the Region

pc-bankimoonThe United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will undertake a tour in the Arab Maghreb region early next March.

The North African tour, the first of its kind by the UN Secretary General, was scheduled for late 2015, but it was postponed for undisclosed reasons.

The announcement of the initial visit was made last November by the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, during his latest tour in the region. The visit would eventually take place early March.

Following his Personal Envoy’s failure to revive peace negotiations despite his diplomatic shuttles in the Tindouf camps and in the countries directly concerned by the Western Sahara conflict, it seems that the UN Chief wants to try by himself to put the negotiations process back on track.

The negotiation process is practically at a standstill since mid-2008 because of the stubbornness of the Algerian rulers and the Polisario leaders who continue to cling to their initial project of a self-determination referendum, rejecting outright any other solution, including the proposal of broad autonomy for the Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty.

Many UN officials involved in the Western Sahara conflict settlement came to the conclusion that a self-determination referendum is unworkable. Among these officials was the former UN envoy for the Sahara, Dutch diplomat Peter van Walsum who came to the same conclusion before he resigned. He had then said that the option of self-determination or independence of Western Sahara was virtually “unrealistic” and “unworkable.”

Similar remarks were made recently in Abu Dhabi by the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who underlined that he was totally opposed to the creation in the Maghreb of a mini-state, bordering on the Sahel strip where terrorist groups are swarming.

In view of the obstinacy of the Algerian rulers and the Polisario separatists, the UN Secretary General’s efforts will surely yield very limited results, like those of his personal envoy. In fact, Christopher Ross, seven years after his appointment in early 2009 to the post of personal envoy of the UN SG for the Sahara, has not recorded any progress towards a settlement of this long-lasting conflict.

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