Western Sahara: An Interesting Analysis by Carnegie Endowment

Carnegie-EndowmentThe Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a renowned Washington-based think tank, published recently a paper analyzing the Western Sahara issue. The paper referred to the standpoint of various UN diplomats who had had to handle this issue over the past thirty years.
All these diplomats have actually admitted that the independence of such a wide desert territory with such a tiny population would seriously endanger the security of the whole North African region.
Javier Perez de Cuellar, the former UN Secretary-General (1982-1991), admitted that he “was never convinced’ of the independence option as a solution to the Western Sahara issue.
Many years after his retirement, De Cuellar wrote in his memoirs published in 2006 “I was never convinced that independence promised the best future for the inhabitants of the Western Sahara.” The land is poor and offers “meager prospects of viability as a separate country,” he wrote. He added that in some cases, the pro-independence advocates are not even Sahrawi in origin, alluding to Algerian authorities which claim, via their Polisario puppet, the holding of a self-determination referendum.
The former UN chief deemed that “the only realistic solution is for the Western Sahara to be integrated as an autonomous structure within Morocco.”
Perez De Cuellar’s successor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Peter Van Walsum, personal envoy of the UN secretary-general for the Western Sahara (2005-2008), and other UN officials have all reached the same conclusion: the independence option is a chimera.
Even retired Algerian General Khaled Nezzar, once a staunch defender of independence, changed his standpoint and affirmed in 2003 that “the last thing that North Africa needs is more fragmentation,” recalled the author of the analysis.
The same conviction was exposed this October 9 by Erik Jensen, UN undersecretary-general and head of MINURSO.
Addressing the UN General Assembly 4th Commission, Erik Jensen, who has had to deal with the Western Sahara issue from 1994 to 1998, stressed the “key role of Algeria” in this conflict and warned against the risk of an “armed conflict” in the region.
The former UN diplomat recalled that the Polisario Front had however agreed during the 1996 negotiations, supervised by Jensen himself, the idea to discuss a solution based on autonomy.
This is the very autonomy proposal that was presented by Morocco few years later and that was supported by the international community. The Security Council has described the Moroccan proposal as “a serious and credible” basis for negotiations to put an end to this conflict which could become a threatening tinderbox for the entire region.

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