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UN Security Council: Urgent need to relaunch political process in Western Sahara

Several members of the Security Council on Monday stressed the urgency to resume the political process in Western Sahara, which has been at a standstill since 2019, calling on the parties to the conflict, the Polisario Front and Morocco, to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.

Following a Council meeting on the latest developments in Western Sahara, South Africa, through its ambassador to the UN, Jerry Matjila, expressed its “impatience” for the appointment of a new envoy of the UN Secretary-General to “support negotiations and the resumption of the political process”.

“South Africa looks forward to the appointment of a new personal envoy of the Secretary-General” for Western Sahara, a post that has been vacant for more than a year, “to support the negotiations and revive the political process,” Mr Matjila declared at the end of these consultations held behind closed doors.

Both parties as well as AU sember States, he added, “must prepare the conditions for a new ceasefire, in close coordination with the AU Peace and Security Council, in accordance with all relevant provisions of its Protocol, to achieve a just and lasting solution to the conflict” which guarantees the Sahrawi people the right to self-determination.

Deploring the absence of a new UN envoy, Ambassador Matjila, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said that the Council and the international community should “consider all alternative and peaceful methods to advance the political path”.

The call for respect for the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination was strongly reaffirmed by Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, which expressed their opposition to the unilateral decision of outgoing US President Donald Trump to recognize Morocco’s alleged sovereignty over the territory.

Germany, which requested the holding of this meeting, expressed the frustration of the Saharawis in the face of the freezing of the peace process, calling on this occasion to realize their aspirations.

Its ambassador to the UN, Christoph Heusgen, said in this regard: “For us, resolving conflicts peacefully means following the rules, implementing UN resolutions and applying international law”.

The German ambassador also expressed his country’s concern at the stalled political process and the dangerous escalation of the conflict. “Supporting the MINURSO is essential,” he said in a tweet.

The United Kingdom, for its part, reiterated its call for constructive negotiations enabling the Saharawi people to determine their future.

For its part, the Belgian delegation to the UN stressed that “the final status of Western Sahara will be determined by a UN-led process, in accordance with international law, the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions. “We call on both parties to return to the negotiating table”, she insisted.

The mission of the Republic of Estonia also indicated in a tweet that Estonia “supports the efforts of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, to find a political solution acceptable to both parties to the conflict (Morocco/Polisario Front) on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions”.

The Estonian Mission also reaffirmed Estonia’s position that “Estonia respects a solution based on international standards, UN resolutions and international law”.

During the meeting, China, the Dominican Republic, Niger and Tunisia renewed their support for the resumption of the UN process under the auspices of a new envoy to be appointed soon by the UN.

Shortly before these consultations, the spokesperson for the UN SG, Stéphane Dujarric, affirmed that the UN’s position remained unchanged on this issue.

“Our position on declarations concerning Western Sahara has not changed and we continue to believe that a solution can be found through dialogue on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions,” Dujarric declared before the Security Council briefing.

The Security Council meeting came as clashes between the two parties to the conflict resumed after Moroccan military forces broke the ceasefire on 13 November by attacking Sahrawi demonstrators in the buffer zone of El-Guerguerat, south-western Western Sahara.

It also came in the wake of the Trump administration’s recognition on 10 December of Morocco’s alleged sovereignty over Western Sahara, with the normalization of Moroccan-Israeli relations, a move strongly denounced around the world amid calls to President-elect Joe Biden to “cancel” it.

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