Morocco approves De Mistura as new UN envoy for the Sahara

The appointment could take effect in the next few days
UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura

REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE  -   UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura

The Moroccan government has given its approval to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, for the appointment of the Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura as his new personal envoy for Western Sahara, a Moroccan diplomatic source informed EFE on Wednesday.

Morocco has been previously consulted on this appointment and has already communicated its agreement to the UN Secretary General, according to the source.

He added that Morocco's acceptance stems from its confidence in the UN Secretary-General's efforts to reach a realistic, lasting and consensual political solution to the dispute over the region.

He added that consultations were under way among the members of the Security Council to approve the appointment of the new personal envoy for the Sahara and that this appointment would be announced in the next few days.

António Guterres had begun consultations with members of the Security Council on the appointment of the Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura as his personal envoy to the Moroccan Sahara, according to diplomatic sources quoted by the Moroccan news agency MAP. Omar Hilale himself, Morocco's ambassador to the UN, confirmed that these consultations are underway and that the appointment of De Mistura will be announced in the next few days, after the approval of the members of the Security Council. He also assured that the Kingdom of Morocco does indeed approve of this appointment.

Puesto fronterizo entre Marruecos y Mauritania en Guerguerat, situado en el Sáhara Occidental, el 24 de noviembre de 2020
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat, Western Sahara, 24 November 2020.

De Mistura's possible appointment, which must be accepted by the Polisario before his position is submitted to the Security Council, comes more than two years after the resignation of the previous personal envoy, German Horst Köhler, who cited "health reasons" for leaving his post.

Köhler resigned from his post in May 2019 without managing to move the irreconcilable positions of Morocco and the Polisario over Western Sahara, not even in the two rounds of talks that the German brokered in Geneva in 2018 and 2019. In those talks, the two parties did not even sit at the same table.

At the end of those frustrated talks, Morocco made it clear that it did not intend to return to a hypothetical negotiating table unless the other country with interests in the area, Algeria, which Rabat considers to be the host, arms, finances and leads the Saharawi movement, sat at the table, and not just as an observer.

Morocco does not propose any other solution to Western Sahara than autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty and territorial integrity, while Polisario wants the right to self-determination.

Un arco en la entrada de Dajla lleva una imagen del rey de Marruecos Mohamed VI, en el Sáhara Occidental
PHOTO/AP - An arch at the entrance to Dakhla bears an image of Morocco's King Mohammed VI in Western Sahara.

The Moroccan proposal is the one that has had the most international acceptance in recent times. In fact, Donald Trump's US administration has already recognised the Moroccan state of the Sahara following an agreement with King Mohammed VI whereby the Alawi country also established diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. Joe Biden's current US administration also ratified this support for the Alawi kingdom's proposed formula of broad autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. 

In addition, several important countries such as the United Arab Emirates announced the opening of consulates in strategic enclaves such as Dakhla and Laayoune, thus reinforcing Morocco's position in the face of a Polisario Front proposal that has little support, such as that of Algeria, Morocco's political rival in the Maghreb.