Sahara: Algerian diplomats participate in Geneva meeting reluctantly

Algerian diplomats reluctantly made the trip to Geneva to attend Wednesday and Thursday the “round table” on the Sahara, to which UN mediator Horst Köhler also invited Morocco, Mauritania and the Polisario Front to relaunch negotiations on the Western Sahara issue, frozen since 2012.

Algeria, which has long proclaimed its “neutrality” in the Moroccan Sahara conflict, while claiming the status of “observer country”, finally agreed, under the pressure of the UN and the Security Council, to sit down at the round table as a party to the conflict, as required by Morocco.

And Algeria sent a delegation to Geneva, headed by its head of diplomacy, Abdelkader Messahel.

For its part, Morocco has decided to include in the delegation, led by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, in addition to Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, three legitimate representatives of the populations of the Sahara provinces.

These are Hamdi Ould Errachid, President of Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra Region; Ynja Khattat, President of the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab Region; and Fatima Adli, Member of the Es-Smara municipal Council.

The Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the Sahara, Horst Köhler sent on 23 November 2018 an invitation to the three Maghreb countries and to the Polisario to attend this Geneva round table, whose agenda focuses on “the evolution of the Sahara issue and the regional situation”.

It is therefore not at all a beginning of negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario, as relayed by the Algerian media, but a kind of contact to re-launch the settlement process, spearheaded exclusively by the United Nations.

It is also clear that the Polisario and its Algerian sponsors find themselves in a weak position in Geneva, following the many stinging failures they have suffered in recent years in their failed attempts to prevent, through judicial channels, the exploitation of the Moroccan southern provinces’ natural resources (phosphates, fisheries, agricultural produce…)

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