Just few days after his tour in the Maghreb countries, the UN mediator in the Western Sahara issue, Christopher Ross, unexpectedly returned to Morocco where he met on April 10 with King Mohammed VI. After the failure of informal talks between the conflicting parties, Ross is seemingly nurturing hope to experiment a new approach to bring the UN-sponsored negotiations process out of the deadlock. The approach consists in a shuttle diplomacy, in which Christopher Ross would try to bring the standpoints of Rabat and Algiers closer. This new approach is explained in the report the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to present to the Security Council in the coming days. The report particularly emphasizes the urgent need to improve relations between Algeria and Morocco and to reopen the borders between the two countries, the purpose being to defuse the tense climate in the region in order to facilitate the settlement process. The new method Christopher Ross is about to implement is based on the search for compromise on the basis of the issues that can get the sides closer, while leaving the bones of contention to the end of the process. Since he took over as mediator in the Western Sahara issue in 2009, Ross has tried various formulas and considered the matter from all sides.
And apart from the Moroccan autonomy proposal, positions remained unchanged on the side of the Polisario and Algeria. At present, the UN mediator who knows perfectly well the tensions underlying relations between Algeria and Morocco since he occupied few years ago the position of the US ambassador in Algiers, has apparently realized that the solution of the conflict is in the hands of Algiers and not of the Polisario. The Algeria-based Polisario Front independence movement has no autonomy with regard to Algerian authorities, and especially with regard to the senior military officers who have the upper hand on the Western Sahara issue. Another topical issue that prompts Ban Ki-moon to encourage Christopher Ross’s new ideas is that the region is endangered by real risks of destabilization due to the proliferation of extremist and separatist groups, as clearly evidenced by the war in Mali.