May 17, 2021

Morocco and the Polisario will face each other again without wanting to give in

Morocco and the Polisario will face each other again without wanting to give in

The Moroccan Government and the Polisario Front will meet again tomorrow after six years of total interruption of contacts, in talks sponsored by the UN and that are not very promising since both parties have made it clear that they do not intend to give in their positions from start.

The conflict in Western Sahara has been muted since 1991, when the parties signed the ceasefire and a peace force (Minurso) arrived in the territory with the mission of preparing a referendum on self-determination for the former Spanish colony.

Morocco began by answering the Saharawi census with the right to vote, then said that the referendum only fit if it was "confirmatory" and finally rejected the idea of ​​the consultation by presenting in 2007 an "initiative of autonomy" of imprecise contours.

An official Moroccan source recently told Efe that Morocco "has nothing to give" before the Geneva talks beyond the autonomy plan, before specifying that Rabat does not see the Geneva meeting as a negotiation but as a mere "round table" "

The Polisario Front has remained equally immovable on the need for the referendum, although the latest resolutions of the UN Security Council on the conflict no longer mention the word and recommend rather the search for a solution to the conflict that is "realistic, practical and politically durable ", a vocabulary that is getting closer and closer to the Moroccan theses.

Based on the fact that the two adversaries arrive at the table without a willingness to negotiate, Morocco considers that it has marked a somewhat at the same table in Algeria, a country that Rabat accuses without means of "sheltering, arming and financing" a Front Polisario who sees only as a puppet of Algiers.

It remains to be seen what the attitude of Algiers is in Geneva and if they are limited to their traditional role as mere spectators, but for now, the UN has invited the Swiss city to its Foreign Minister, Abdelkader Mesahel, who has so far He has not confirmed whether he will attend.

Morocco also sends the head of diplomacy, Naser Burita, accompanied by the ambassador to the UN, Omar Hilale, and three Moroccan pro-Saharans, presidents or members of local institutions of El Aaiún, Esmara and Dajla, a message with which Rabat intends to dispute to the Polisario the monopoly of the Sahrawi representativeness.

The round table is so far the only achievement achieved by the new Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the Sahara, the German Horst Köhler, who since his appointment in August 2017 has been striving, in the midst of great discretion, to remove the conflict of a lethargy that makes it one of the longest living on the planet.

Until now, Köhler has managed to at least not be seen as pro-Moroccan or pro-polisario, a sambenito that he has had to take all his predecessors: the last of them, the American Christopher Ross, came to be declared "persona non grata" "on the part of Rabat to consider it proclive to the pro-independence, but Ban Ki-moon kept him in the position.

In a gesture that clearly indicates the relationship of forces in the conflict, Morocco came to prohibit Ross for more than three years to visit the Saharawi territory that Rabat manages, and the US diplomat had to abide by the prohibition; in the case of Köhler, he has received permission and has thus been able to meet with those whom Rabat calls "separatists of the interior".

But Köhler's room for maneuver is being reduced by extra-Maghrebian factors: with the arrival of Donad Trump to the White House, and in his line of limiting the expenses and international commitments of his country, the United States has pressed and succeeded in the mandate of the Minurso is shortened from one year to only six months, in order to put pressure on the parties in search of a solution.

"The status quo (current) is not acceptable," says the last resolution of the Council of October 31, which also calls on the Secretary General to report within three months on the progress of what he calls "negotiations", although not have started as such.

The "realism and spirit of compromise" of the parties, which also demands that resolution, are now to be demonstrated at the Geneva meeting.

Javier Otazu


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