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UN envoy to Western Sahara tours Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania

January 13, 2022 at 9:17 am

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Misturas in Geneva on 23 February 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın/Anadolu Agency]

Staffan de Mistura, UN envoy to the Western Sahara, yesterday began his first visit to Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

De Mistura is going to meet Moroccan officials in Rabat, according to Dujarric, then Polisario officials in Tindouf, Algeria, an area housing Sahrawi refugees.

Dujarric said that the UN envoy is to meet officials in Algiers and Nouakchott in order to hear “the views of all concerned on how to make progress towards a constructive resumption of the political process on Western Sahara.”

Algeria backs the Polisario Front, which seeks the independence of the Western Sahara, which Morocco controls nearly 80 per cent of.

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Rabat insists on its right to govern the region, but proposed autonomous rule in the Western Sahara under its sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum to let the people determine the future of the region. Algeria has been supporting the Front’s proposal and hosts refugees from the region.

The 1991 ceasefire came to an end last year after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guergarat crossing, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the state of Morocco and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which the Polisario said was a provocation.

The US administration of former President Donald Trump recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory in return for Rabat’s normalising ties with Israel.

De Mistura was appointed UN envoy to Western Sahara in October last year, nearly two and a half years after the post became vacant as a dozen other candidates were rejected by either Morocco or the Polisario Front.