Sahara: Will Ban Ki-Moon succeed where his envoy failed?

ban-ki-moonThe UN mediator for the Sahara, Christopher Ross, confirmed Monday that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon plans to visit the Maghreb region shortly in an attempt to revive negotiations for the settlement of the long lasting Western Sahara conflict.

“Ban Ki-Moon wants to visit the region in the coming months to contribute personally to the search for a solution to this conflict that has lasted too long,” said his personal envoy for the Sahara, Christopher Ross, who is currently visiting Algeria.

Ross began on Monday a visit to Algiers, first leg of a new tour in the region that will take him to the Tindouf camps, Rabat and Mauritania.

The UN mediator is back in the region, for the third time since the beginning of the year, with a view in particular to relaunch negotiations between the parties to the conflict, Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario Front, and to prepare Ban Ki-moon’s visit in the region.

The latest informal talks between Morocco and the Polisario date back to March 2012 in Manhasset in the USA. Since then, the UN settlement process is deadlocked and despite the UN envoy’s diplomatic shuttles there was no progress whatsoever.

While Morocco has shown flexibility and made many concessions, the latest being the proposal to grant a broad autonomy to the disputed part of its Sahara, the Algeria-backed Polisario sticks to its initial position.

Actually, the separatist front continues to claim a self-determination referendum, at a time even the UN and most permanent members of the Security Council came to the conclusion that the referendum was not feasible in view of the features of the Western Sahara population, based on a tribal organization and mostly on a nomadic way of life.

It is because of this impasse and of the insurmountable difficulties encountered by the former US ambassador to Algeria, Christopher Ross, who could not even bring the conflicting parties around the same table, that the UN Secretary General decided to make the trip in the region, hoping to end the deadlock.

Yet, will Ban Ki-moon succeed where his personal envoy has failed? That is the question.

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