Jordan Paul, MACP
February 19, 2015
Personal Envoy for the Western Sahara Christopher Ross visited Morocco last week, followed by a visit to the Polisario-run refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. Will he finally find a commitment to serious negotiations in Tindouf?
History certainly isn’t encouraging. It’s been seven years now since Mr. Ross’s predecessor Peter van Walsum issued a report calling for the next round of formal talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front to focus only on a real solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. The result? There have been no formal talks, and the nine rounds of informal talks — from 2008-2012 – as well as the “shuttle diplomacy” conducted by Mr. Ross since then have been fruitless. The fact is, the Polisario has steadfastly stonewalled on the issue, refusing to consider a compromise and regularly threatening to go back to war.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Sahrawis remain trapped in the camps under a Polisario dictatorship that not only denies them the most basic rights but has also gotten rich embezzling their humanitarian aid. And at the same time, security in the region is becoming ever more precarious – a situation that demands the regional cooperation that remains impossible while this conflict remains unresolved.
Morocco has made very clear just how willing the country is to achieve the negotiated political compromise the UN has called for. In 2007, Morocco proposed a solution – for autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty – that has been recognized by US presidential administrations, the US Congress, and the international community as serious, credible and realistic.
What has been lacking is any will by the Polisario and its Algerian backers to commit to – and participate in – meaningful negotiation to reach any kind of solution.
Last year, I wrote in this space, “we must come to a firm conclusion that this conflict has gone on far too long. Something’s gotta give. Here’s to 2014 marking a breakthrough in the impasse.”
Well, 2015 has arrived, and the ball is – still – in the Polisario court.