Regional and international changes disturb de Mistura's mission regarding the Sahara

The UN envoy spoke in Tindouf with Polisario leader Ibrahim Ghali in a "closed" meeting, to complement his meeting with Moroccan officials in Rabat last July.

Staffan de Mistura and Ibrahim Ghaly in Tindouf
Last July, de Mistura canceled his last-minute visit to the Moroccan Sahara

Tindouf (Algeria) - Many observers are wondering what the visit of the UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy to the Moroccan Sahara, Staffan de Mistura, to Algeria can offer to resolve the conflict over the Moroccan Sahara in light of the tense "Maghreb" situation and the entry of international actors such as Russia into the region.

De Mistura met the leader of the separatist Polisario Front, Ibrahim Ghali, on Sunday in Tindouf, Algeria, as part of a tour of the region.

On Saturday, the UN envoy met the head of the Polisario's negotiating delegation, Khatri Addo, as well as the representative of the "Polisario" to the United Nations, Omar Sidi Mohamed.

After the meeting, Sidi Mohamed expressed the readiness of the Polisario Front to cooperate with the United Nations and the Personal Envoy in their efforts to reach a peaceful solution.

The United Nations appointed Staffan de Mistura, a special envoy for the Moroccan Sahara, in October 2021, from among 12 names nominated for the mission.

Morocco expressed its dissatisfaction with Mistura at first, while the Polisario Front welcomed him. However, diplomatic sources say that Morocco later accepted Mastura reluctantly after American mediation.

This meeting represents a third round or a continuation of a second round in the mission of de Mistura, who for four years led rounds for peace that was not achieved, when he was the UN envoy in Syria, succeeding Lakhdar Brahimi, coming from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The file of the Moroccan Sahara becomes more complicated after the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the revelation of the game of axes in which Algeria and Morocco were involved.

De Mistura's mission branched out after Algeria withdrew from the round tables on which the United Nations relied to manage the conflict

It has become clear that Algeria is aligning itself with Russia against the West, but Moscow has so far not shown any supportive position for the Algerian approach to the Moroccan Sahara, even though the United States supported Rabat in the autonomy proposal.

Last January, de Mistura made a regional tour, the first in his new mission, which included Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania.

In the same period in which de Mistura was assigned his "Maghreb" mission, the Security Council, in its Resolution 2602, called on Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and the Polisario to resume talks "without preconditions and in good faith", with the aim of reaching a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution

They believe that de Mistura's mission branched out in light of Algeria's "obstinate" position after its withdrawal from the "round tables" on which the United Nations relied to manage the conflict.

The Moroccan side received de Mistura with much satisfaction, while the front was tense, and attacked the Security Council and its positions on the conflict, through its representative in New York, Sidi Mohamed Ammar, who accused the Council of "inaction", blaming it for the failure of the international path to settlement by submitting to what he described as "the influence of some of its active members.

Morocco was relieved at that time due to the success of its army in securing the Guerguerat border crossing, and expelling elements calculated on the front that managed to close it for weeks and disrupt the movement of passengers and goods between Morocco and Mauritania.

Then de Mistura returned as part of a second tour last July, where he met Moroccan officials in Rabat, without going through the traditional stations that the previous envoys went through, namely Algeria, Mauritania and Tindouf, where there is a camp for Sahrawi refugees.

No information was leaked about the meeting of de Mistura and Ghali on Sunday, nor was it followed by statements from the two parties revealing what happened in the meeting, which was described as closed.

The position of the Spanish government is historical as it emanated from the power that was colonizing the Sahara, and it is the main party alongside Mauritania in the Madrid Agreement that ended the colonial reality of the Sahara

The Moroccan Sahara file has witnessed remarkable developments in the recent period, especially in the Spanish position in support of Morocco's proposal to establish an autonomous region in the Moroccan Sahara, under which part of the Kingdom's executive, legislative and judicial competencies will be transferred to the self-governing authorities, so that the inhabitants of the Sahara "democratically manage their own affairs", while retaining Rabat with its central competencies "in the fields of sovereignty, especially defense and foreign relations," as well as the king's exercise of his religious and constitutional prerogatives.

The Moroccan proposal was rejected by Algeria and the Polisario Front, which proposes to organize a referendum for self-determination under the auspices of the United Nations.

Rabat controls about 80 percent of the total area of ​​the Sahara, while Algeria, which severed ties with Morocco in August 2021, provides a haven for members of the Polisario Front.

Analysts consider that the position of Pedro Sanchez's government is historical and very important, as it stems from the power that was colonizing the Sahara, and it is the main party along with Mauritania in the Madrid Agreement that ended the colonial reality of the Sahara.

De Mistura's current visit comes in another important context, which is the outbreak of a diplomatic crisis between Morocco and Tunisia after Tunisian President Kais Saied received Ibrahim Ghali at the end of August on the occasion of the TICAD 8 summit in Tunisia.

The two sides exchanged statements and summoned ambassadors for consultations to launch media and popular campaigns in both countries, which are witnessing for the first time a similar crisis.

Tunisia has always adopted a policy of neutrality towards the Moroccan Sahara and has not announced its support for any party, adhering to the principles of the United Nations and the dream of the Arab Maghreb, which has long faltered due to the Algerian position, which Morocco considers an interference in its internal affairs.


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