Christopher Ross Resigns as UNSG Personal Envoy for Western Sahara

 Christopher Ross has resigned from his position as United Nations Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.


American diplomat, Christopher Ross, has submitted his resignation to the United Nations Secretary General, Antonino Gueterres, according to diplomatic sources in New York cited by Algerian website Tout Sur l’Algerie.


The 74-year old diplomat has held the post since January 2009, but was unable to help the parties to the conflict achieve in any progress in the UN-led political process aimed at helping Morocco and the Polisario reach a mutually acceptable political solution to the Western Sahara territorial dispute.


Ross was appointed as replacement to former Dutch Peter Van Walsum, who had held this position between 2005 and August 2008. The Van Walsum was forced to submit his resignation after he told the Security Council in 2008 that the establishment of an independent state in the Western Sahara was “unrealistic.”


The Dutch diplomat’s statement was made a year after Morocco presented to the Security Council an Autonomy Plan, which was described as “serious and credible” by influential members of the Security Council. The plan, which was submitted in April 2007, proposes significant autonomy for the Sahara with a local government and a parliament, within the Moroccan sovereignty.


Instead of building on the work done by his predecessor and working to help the parties to achieve a political solution in line with Security Council Resolution 1754 of April 2007, Ross adopted a new approach. The latter consisted in holding informal meetings with both Moroccan officials and representatives of the Polisario.


Since his appointment in January 2009, Morocco and the Polisario held 10 informal rounds of negotiations. These negotiations have ended without achieving any progress.


In 2012, Morocco had declared Christopher Ross persona non-grata following his declaration on Morocco’s alleged abuses in the Western Sahara. It took the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon considerable effort to convince King Mohammed VI to accept Ross’ return.


Morocco suspects the American diplomat of being behind the efforts to empower the United Nations Mission in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, with a human rights monitoring mechanism.