Christopher Ross has nothing new to offer

The UN mediator for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, who started a new tour in the region on Wednesday by a visit to Rabat, does not seem to have brought any new proposals to push forward the settlement of the territorial dispute between Morocco and Algeria.

The UN mediator was received Thursday afternoon in Rabat by Moroccan Foreign Affairs Minister, Salaheddine Mezouar, but he did not disclose the content of the 60 mn meeting.

The meeting was attended by Mezouar’s close aides and by Moroccço’s permanent representative to the UN, Omar Hilal.

According to sources close to the Foreign Ministry, the Moroccan side insisted on the need to look for an acceptable and consensual political solution based on the Morocco-proposed broad autonomy for the Sahara. The Moroccan officials also stressed the necessity to conduct a census of the Sahrawis settled in the Tindouf camps. They likewise underlined Algeria’s role as a party involved in the territorial conflict over Western Sahara.

The UN mediator’s return to the region after a long absence of almost a year, was made possible after a phone call between King Mohammed VI and the UN SG Ban Ki-Moon.

During the call that took place on January 22, Ban Ki-moon gave the Moroccan King assurances about the neutrality of UN officials and agencies in handling the Western Sahara issue.

Morocco’s commitment to its autonomy proposal was reiterated on Thursday by Communication Minister and spokesman for the government Mustapha Khalfi, who recalled that the international community had considered the proposal serious and credible.

This option, he said, “represents a framework for reaching a political, consensual and mutually acceptable solution to the Sahara conflict, in line with the parameters defined by the UN, without any change or amendment.”

Christopher Ross, who was due to leave for Algeria on Friday, is expected in the Tindouf camps on Saturday.

A retired diplomat explained that Morocco does not expect much from the UN mediator who has seemingly exhausted all his resources without any results. It is up to the United Nations to find a new way out to end the 40 year-long deadlock, said the diplomat.