UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations doubled down on its pledge to revive stalled negotiations over the disputed Western Sahara during a visit to the region this week, where its top negotiator met with officials from all sides ahead of the release of a long-awaited UN organization. report next month.
The visit was Staffan de Mistura’s first to Western Sahara since he was appointed in 2021 to oversee UN efforts to guide negotiations dating back more than three decades.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, sparking a conflict with the pro-independence Polisario Front. The region is believed to have significant offshore oil and mineral resources and is slightly larger than the United Kingdom.
The UN arranged a ceasefire in 1991 and set up a peacekeeping mission to monitor the ceasefire and help prepare a referendum on the future of the area. Disagreements over who can vote have prevented the referendum. The Polisario Front renewed the armed conflict in 2020, ending a 29-year ceasefire.
The long-standing status quo was also further breached later that year, when the United States broke with its past policies and recognized Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory as part of an agreement in which Morocco normalized relations with Israel.
De Mistura met with officials in Morocco’s capital on Friday after touring Dakhla and Laayoune, the two largest cities, for the first time. The United Nations said in a statement ahead of the trip that he “looked forward to further deepening consultations with all stakeholders on the prospects for constructively advancing the political process in Western Sahara,” noting that the visit would precede the publication of a Western report. Sahara will report to the Security Council next month.
Since taking office, US President Joe Biden has not changed the recognition of Morocco’s claims in the Trump era. His administration has reaffirmed Washington’s support for the United Nations and De Mistura’s renewed efforts, including this week when Joshua Harris, deputy assistant secretary for North Africa, made a trip to the region and visited Rabat, Algiers and camps in the visited southern Algeria where thousands of Sahrawi refugees call home.
A statement from the US Embassy in Morocco reiterated Washington’s previously stated position that it views Morocco’s plan as “serious, credible and realistic, and as a possible approach to meeting the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara.” ”
Morocco and neighboring Algeria, which has long supported the pro-independence Polisario Front, also reaffirmed their positions in statements coinciding with Harris and De Mistura’s trips, with both voicing public support for the UN efforts.
In talks with Harris, Lounès Magramane, Algeria’s foreign minister, expressed support for “a political solution to the issue of Western Sahara, which guarantees the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination,” according to a statement from the the country’s official news agency. , APS.
Morocco referred to its preferred plan to grant the region a form of self-government that is incapable of independence.
“Morocco advocates a political solution based solely on the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative, within the framework of national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.