Horst Köhler in Laayoune for his first visit to the Moroccan Sahara

The Personal Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for the Sahara, Horst Köhler, arrived this Thursday in Laayoune after his working visit to Rabat, where he met with the Head of Government, Saad Eddine El Othmani, and Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita.

During his first official visit to the Moroccan southern provinces, the former German President met with local officials in Laayoune and paid a visit to the headquarters of the UN Mission for the Sahara, MINURSO.

The UN Secretary General’s personal envoy is also expected to visit the cities of Dakhla and Smara as part of his second tour of the region that led him, as of June 23, to Algiers, to Rabbouni in the Tindouf camps, to Nouakchott in Mauritania and then to Rabat.  

Horst Köhler will also visit Spain, the former colonial power of the Moroccan Sahara.

During this regional tour, which takes place nine months after his appointment to the position in September 2017, the UN SG’s personal envoy is likely to be testing the pulse of stakeholders in the Moroccan Sahara issue before the resumption by the end of 2018 of the negotiations frozen since 2012.

Nevertheless, the UN mediator’s approach can lead to tangible results only if he manages to convince the Algerian side to become fully involved in these negotiations, as a stakeholder in this territorial conflict, as required by Morocco.

Rabat refuses any direct face-to-face meeting with the Polisario separatist movement, created in the 1970s by the Algerian regime in collusion with Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, as it holds Algeria responsible for the perpetuation of the regional conflict.

Unlike Algeria and the Polisario, which stick stubbornly to their initial position demanding a self-determination referendum, Morocco made many concessions to facilitate the definitive settlement of this issue, the latest being its proposal to grant a large autonomy to the Western Sahara territory, claimed by the Polisario.

The ball is now in the court of the UN envoy and in the court of Algeria, which holds the solution to the Sahara issue.


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