Staffan de Mistura concluded his first regional tour in Algeria, where he met with members of the government of Abdelmadjid Tebboune to discuss the question of the Sahara and the possible resumption of the political process. The UN Special Envoy held talks in Algiers with Ramtane Lamamra, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and with Amar Belani, Special Envoy for Western Sahara and the Maghreb countries in Lamamra's Ministry.
The head of Algerian diplomacy stressed Algeria's support "for the decolonisation of the last African colony", as he wrote on his Twitter account. Lamamra reminded de Mistura that his mission takes place "in a context of war". Nevertheless, the Algerian minister "presented, in general terms, the outlines of his plan to try to relaunch the political process", according to EFE news agency.
The process, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, "has reached a dead end due to the intransigence of the Moroccan side, which continues to multiply obstacles and prohibitive conditions to perpetuate the colonial fait accompli". Algiers decided to break off relations with Morocco in August, accusing the Kingdom of not respecting the good neighbourhood treaty. Rabat, for its part, expressed its regret at the "unilateral and completely unjustified decision" in a communiqué. The two neighbours have had a long-standing enmity due to the support the Polisario Front receives from the Algerian regime.
The Algerian communiqué reiterated its support "both on the substantive and format-related aspects" of the Saharawi thesis. In this regard, Belani underlined "the urgent need for the Saharawi people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, regardless of the paths taken", according to APS, Algeria's state news agency. Furthermore, the Algerian delegation is in favour of "reactivating and revitalising the 1991 joint settlement plan (UN-OAU), as the only agreement accepted by the two parties to the conflict and endorsed twice by the Security Council". Algeria also referred to the possibility of "direct negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions" between the parties to the conflict.
Before landing in Algiers, the Special Envoy for the Sahara visited Nouakchott to meet the Mauritanian President, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. De Mistura, like the Mauritanian side, did not make any statements after the meeting, in which they were to discuss negotiations to end the Sahara conflict.
Mauritania was part of the talks in Switzerland initiated by the former special envoy, Horst Köhler. The negotiations initiated by the former German president were suspended in 2018 without reaching any agreement between the parties involved.
In 1975, Mauritania fought alongside Morocco against the Algerian-backed Polisario Front in the Sahara War. However, years later, in 1984, Nouakchott officially recognised the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) proclaimed by the Polisario in 1976. Prior to this, in 1979, Mauritania agreed in Algiers to withdraw from Western Sahara and renounced any claim to the territory.
The previous Mauritanian president, Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, who established ties with the Polisario, followed this line. In contrast, the current Ghazouani government has opted for a more neutral position in the conflict.
Before Mauritania and Algiers, de Mistura met in Rabat with a Moroccan delegation led by Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. The head of Alawi diplomacy again defended Morocco's autonomy proposal for the Sahara. He then went to Tindouf, where he met with several members of the Polisario Front, such as Brahim Ghali, who warned that the Saharawi people "will continue their struggle".
De Mistura's regional trip comes to an end after having listened to all the parties involved in the Saharawi question. The UN special envoy seeks to resume the political dialogue, stalled since 2018, an aspect that could lay the foundations for a possible solution to the conflict.