GENEVA – Morocco and the Polisario Front pledged Thursday in Geneva to continue the talks for the settlement of the conflict of Western Sahara, more than 40 years old, despite Morocco's rejection of the principle of self-determination.
After the departure of the Spaniards from Western Sahara, Morocco invaded the territory, yet declared non-autonomous by the United Nations, and occupies it illegally despite the resolutions of the General Assembly of the UN and the Security Council stressing that the solution of the conflict must go through the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Following the proceedings of the round table, the Personal Envoy of the United Nations Scrutine General for Western Sahara, Horst Kohler, indicated in a press briefing that the two-day discussions of the table -Ronde, initiated by itself, were "intensive", congratulating the delegations for their "open engagement and in a spirit of mutual respect".
He said he was "very happy" to note that the delegations, in particular Morocco and the Polisario Front, "committed themselves to continue their efforts", hoping that this process "will be guided primarily by a concern of the men. and the women, children and youth of the people of Western Sahara ". Horst Kohler was still convinced that a "peaceful" solution to this conflict is "possible."
For their part, the Saharawis have reaffirmed their willingness to continue discussions with Morocco in the context of the relevant Security Council resolutions that provide for the organization of a referendum on the self-determination of the Saharawi people.
"We came with a constructive spirit and what is asked of Morocco is to go beyond this situation and to work with us in the efforts of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN, Horst Kohler, and Security Council resolutions for a just solution in the expectation of creating a favorable climate to establish a climate of trust between the two sides, "said the head of the Sahrawi delegation, Khatri Eddouh.
A peaceful solution to the conflict is possible
He considered that it is "beneficial" to create this mutual trust between the two parties to the conflict, particularly with regard to "respect for human rights in the occupied territories, the release of Saharawi political prisoners among others, the group of Gdeim Izik, and the opening of occupied territories for journalists, international observers and human rights activists to inquire about the situation in this occupied part of Western Sahara ".
The Moroccan side, however, has reaffirmed its position which blocks the negotiation process and rejects the referendum of self-determination in one single step.
During a conference, the head of the Moroccan delegation, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, showed clearly the refusal to change the position of his country and at no time did he refer to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara by observers' own reading of Security Council Resolution 2440.
Indeed, on 31 October, Security Council Resolution 2440 enjoined Morocco and the Polisario Front, the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara, to resume negotiations "without preconditions and in good faith" with a view to to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that allows the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
In this context, the round table, in which Algeria and Mauritania participated as neighbors and observers, was to lead to the resumption of direct negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario, but Mr. Kohler preferred in all likelihood to conduct this format, by convening another round table in the first quarter of 2019, in the hope of finding common ground between the two parties to the conflict.
A new dynamic is under way
In this context, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, indicated that the efforts of the UN envoy "have allowed the holding of this meeting of Geneva which creates a new dynamic in the process of settlement of the question of the Western Sahara ".
Indeed, the first "positive" result, observers say, was "to have the two parties in conflict sitting around the same table" after six years of blocking the negotiation process.
The main thing, they think, is that "we are witnessing a situation of unblocking which will notably favor the resumption of negotiations and the implementation of a roadmap" when Horst Kohler will change from the role of " facilitator "to that of" mediator ".
It should be noted that this new context is made possible, they admit, thanks to a "new approach" of the United States vis-à-vis this file where practically they showed their annoyance on the status quo.
The country of Donald Trump fought hard, during the last session of the Security Council on Western Sahara, for the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (Minurso) to be extended from only six months in order to find, in the framework of the next Moroccan-Saharawi negotiations, the solution advocated by Security Council resolutions.
However, these same observers display a certain "skepticism" as to the evolution of the Moroccan position on the file, in particular because this country, even if it has received, in recent years, heavy defeats on the plan of international law, is still supported by France, one of the five members of the Security Council.