Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Envoy to the Sahara, Christopher Ross, who is carrying out a tour to the region, is expected to arrive in Layoune, southern Morocco on Tuesday night.
During his stay in the major city of the Sahara, Ross will hold meetings with the local authorities, elected officials, as well as representatives of civil society working in the region, including those that support the Polisario.
The UNSG’s Personal Envoy arrived in Morocco on Saturday night. He held meetings with the Mnitser of Foreign Affairs, Saad Eddine Otmani, as well as the Minister of Interior, Mohand Laanser.
On Monday, he held a meeting with King Mohammed VI, a meeting that he described as a “precious contribution to the search for a more efficient means to settle the dispute” over the Sahara.
“I came to the region to review the situation over the past five years of direct negotiations, collect ideas on the best ways to achieve a real progress in the negotiation process and examine the impact of the latest developments of the Sahara issue,” Ross told the press following the audience granted to him by the King on Monday in the Rabat royal palace.
This visit is part of “the mission which the UN Secretary General entrusted to me three years ago” to facilitate negotiations between the parties in order to reach a just, lasting and mutually-acceptable political solution, he added.
This is the first time that a UNSG’s Personal Envoy to the Sahara carries out a visit to Laayoune. Ross planned to visit the region in late May, but he had to cancel his tour to the region after Morocco declared that it would no longer cooperate with him.
In mid May Morocco withdrew its confidence in Ross as UNSG personal envoy to the Sahara and called on Ban Ki-moon to appoint a new personal envoy in order to breathe a new life into the process of negotiations towards finding a long-lasting and mutually acceptable solution to the territorial dispute.
The decision was taken a few days after the publication of the UN Secretary General Annual report on the Sahara and the adoption by the Security on April 24 of a new resolution, which extended the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2013.