The United Nations Secretary General’s Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, has begun a new tour in the region.
The new tour in which Ross seeks to prepare Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the region this spring, comes less than six weeks before the submission of the UNSG’s annual report to the Security Council.
The UN body is scheduled to receive the draft report in early April and decide by the end of the same month whether or not to renew the mandate of UN Mission to the Western Sahara, known by its French acronym as MINURSO.
The first leg of Christopher Ross’s tour of the region led him to Mauritania and to the Tindouf camps where he met with a delegation from the Polisario, a separatist movement that claims to be the only representative of the Sahrawis and calls for the establishment of an independent state in the territory.
Immediately after his meeting in Tindouf, the American diplomat flew to Algiers where he met with Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Ramtan Lamamra. Ross is scheduled to meet with Moroccan and officials next on Monday.
Since he was entrusted in January 2009 with the mission of mediating a political solution between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario, Ross has failed to help the parties make any progress towards finding a settlement.
Rather than building on the work done by his predecessor, Dutch diplomat, Peter Van Walsum, Ross has spent a significant amount of time making routine trips to the region.
According to analysts, this new trip will not constitute any exception to the rule established by Ross since he was appointed by Ban Ki-moon seven years ago.
Following the Security Council’s call on the involved parties to present creative, feasible solutions that could pave the way to reaching a political settlement, Morocco presented its autonomy proposal to the Security Council in April 2007.
The proposal has been welcomed by members of the Security Council as “serious, credible.” It has also received the backing of the French government. Though the American administration has repeatedly said that the proposal “is realistic, serious and credible,” the US government has still not made a clear-cut statement of support for the Moroccan proposal.
Meanwhile, the proposal has received bipartisan support from both the US Congress and Senate. In 2007, 173 members of Congress sent a letter to then-President George Bush in which they endorsed the plan and called for White House support. In 2009, 233 members of Congress sent a letter to Obama urging him to endorse the Moroccan proposal. In 2010, 54 senators sent a letter to then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, calling on her to back the Moroccan position.
Morocco has been adamant in its position that the autonomy proposal is the only way forward. In a speech delivered on November 6, 2015 on the 40th anniversary of the Green March, King Mohammed VI stated that the autonomy proposal is, “the maximum Morocco can offer.”