German Horst Koehler new mediator in Western Sahara issue

Former German President Horst Koehler took over as the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy to Western Sahara, replacing US diplomat Christopher Ross who failed to move forward talks between Morocco and the Polisario towards a final settlement of this territorial dispute.

According to a UN letter released on Friday (June 2), UN chief Antonio Guterres last week informed the Security Council of his decision to appoint Koehler, and no country has objected, a fact meaning his appointment is endorsed.

Horst Koehler, 74, succeeds Christopher Ross who stepped down last April, after years of fruitless mediation in the Western Sahara conflict, fueled by the Algerian regime, which continues to claim, unembarrassed, neutrality in the issue.

Koehler, an economist and former banker, presided over Germany from 2004 to 2010. He held the position of Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and also of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The Security Council adopted a resolution in April urging Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario to resume the negotiations stalled since 2012 due to the bias of mediator Ross and his boss, the South Korean Ban Ki-Moon, who was replaced at the helm of the UN by former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.

Since the beginning of the conflict, created out of nothing by Algeria and Libya in the 1970s, the position of the Polisario and its Algerian sponsors has remained unchanged: they want, as the only option for a settlement, a self-determination referendum. Meanwhile, Morocco has shown flexibility, going as far as proposing a broad autonomy to its southern provinces, as a political solution to end this conflict definitively.



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