Spokesperson for the United Nations, Michele Montas said the UNSG Personal Envoy for the Sahara, Peter van Walsum has the capacity as UN facilitator, to present suggestions to get the 32-year-old Sahara issue out of the current impasse.
"Walsum had been acting in his role as the facilitator for Western Sahara and had some leeway in that role to present his own conclusions," Montas said in reaction to the UN official's remarks that the independence for the Sahara was "unrealistic."
Montas, who was reacting to the remarks of South Africa's representative in the Security Council, said Walsum is still the personal envoy, and in this capacity he presented his conclusions and his own suggestions to get the issue out of the deadlock.
On Monday Walsum crushed the proposal of the Algerian-backed Polisario separatists to separate the Sahara (Morocco's southern provinces) from the rest of Morocco when he declared that "an independent Western Sahara is not a realistic option."
The diplomat also called on the UNSC to recommend to the parties involved in the dispute to resume talks and take into account the political and international reality.
The UN ambassadors of the United States and Great Britain said the conclusions are worth serious consideration.
Walsum’s ideas are "worthy of serious consideration," U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters. A similar stance was expressed by British ambassador, Sir John Sawers, who added that Morocco’s autonomy proposal deserves "serious consideration".
Morocco is proposing to grant the Sahara substantial autonomy under its sovereignty, ruling out the possibility of independence that the Polisario are claiming.
The Sahara was a Spanish colony that was ceded to Morocco in 1975 under the Madrid Accord, signed with Spain and Mauritania.
Morocco and the Polisario have resumed talks in June 2007 to reach a deal about the future of the territory. Four rounds were held ever since, under UN aegis, without the parties making substantial headways.
At the end of the fourth round, held in mid March, the parties agreed to meet later without setting a fixed date.
Van Walsum says Algeria and Polisario want to perpetuate Sahara talks
Polisario separatists and their supporters in Algeria have only one objective: that of perpetuating the talk process on the future of the Sahara, UN Secretary General personal envoy to the Sahara, Peter van Walsum said.
The UN official who, last month, dismissed the Sahara independence as unrealistic, claimed in an interview with the Dutch paper, NRC Handelsblad, his right to express his opinion at the UN Security Council.
"I deemed that if I don't express my opinion today, I'll feel incredibly taken advantage of in a year time," he told the paper. "I risk to be discredited."
Mr. Walsum said he had the feeling he was appointed as UN envoy to perpetrate the dispute ad infinitum, adding that, in the absence of any perspective, he was encouraged in his mission, especially from Algeria, which provides full support to the Sahara.
Polisario and Morocco have been disputing the control of the Sahara, since 1975, when the former Spanish colonizer pulled out and ceded the desert territory to Morocco under the Madrid Accord.
My conviction, van Walsum said, was totally different, and things didn’t go right.
The official also deemed immoral that the populations remain in camps since 33 years ago. “Is it morally acceptable to leave a generation of children of the Polisario live in camps?” he wondered.
Van Walsum recalled his decision to urge the Polisario to “engage in tense negotiations in order to reach a guaranteed form of autonomy under the Moroccan flag.”
Van Walsum criticizes Spanish civil society for creating 'false hopes' on the independence of Sahara
The United Nations Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for the Sahara, Peter van Walsum, has criticized the Spanish civil society for having encouraged "Polisario" to bank on independence and contributed to "prolonging the agony" of the people held in the Tindouf camps (southwest of Algeria).
In an interview with the Spanish daily "El Pais", published on Friday, Mr. van Walsum called upon "Spaniards who are really concerned about the well-being of Sahrawis to wonder if they are acting properly by encouraging Polisario to insist on total independence."
Calling for reaching a "consensual solution based on the reality on the ground," Mr. van Walsum underlined that "the political reality on the ground is in the hands of Morocco."
Since June 2007, delegations from Morocco, Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have taken part in Manhasset, near New York, in four rounds of negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations, in the presence of Mr. van Walsum in his capacity as facilitator of the negotiations.
In a report before the Security Council on April 15, Mr. van Walsum has dismissed the option of “independence” advocated by Polisario and Algiers, calling it “unrealistic” and “unfeasible.”
Ban praises work of Personal Envoy to Sahara
Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon "appreciates the work done by his personal envoy," Peter van Walsum, whose mandate expired on August 21, a spokesman for the U.N. chief said on Thursday.
"Over the past three years, he has worked with the parties, neighboring countries and other stakeholders to convene four rounds of negotiations," spokeswoman, Marie Okabe, said in a press release.
The appointment of a new envoy "will be made soon," Okabe added.
The UNSG "remains committed to offering the parties in the region his good offices as they prepare for the fifth round of negotiations this fall," she affirmed.
Ban Ki-moon "firmly believes that there is a need to revitalise the negotiation process in order to attain a peaceful solution" to the Sahara issue, the official said.
In its latest resolution on the Sahara issue, the Security Council of the UN has stressed the need for the parties to show realism and a spirit of compromise to maintain the momentum triggered by the talk process.
The council had called upon the parties to "continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to engage in substantive negotiations.”
Van Walsum asked to quit his post, UNSG says
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, made it clear on Thursday, that his former personal envoy to the Sahara, Peter Van Walsum, asked to quit his post.
"I want to make it clear. It was not my decision not to extend his term of contract," Mr. Ban Ki-moon said at a press conference, while reiterating commitment to continue the negotiations process with a new mediator, whose appointment is underway.
Mr. Van Walsum "sent me a note saying that he felt that he had done enough for his role and that I had better find some other person," said the UNSG, who affirmed that he "did not make a decision on that until the last minute."
"Since he decided voluntarily to quit this post I had to find another person to replace him, because I am also very committed to continue this negotiation process," stressed Mr. Ban Ki-moon, who paid anew tribute to Mr. Van Walsum.
The former Personal Envoy "had shown extremely capable leadership, commitment and a great deal of
passion to come to a resolution to this long-standing issue," the UN official added.
"I highly appreciate his contribution," he went on, recalling that Mr.Walsum has convened four rounds of negotiations "with some success, improvement, progress, but with ups and downs."
Mr Erik Jensen, former UN special representative: Autonomy only solution to the Sahara
The former special representative of UN Secretary-General for the Sahara, Erik Jensen, said Wednesday before the 4th United Nations commission that autonomy is the only solution to the Sahara, stressing that "Polisario should abandon some of its aspirations. "
In this regard, Mr. Jensen, whose testimony was highly anticipated, said he wrote a book in which he explained the failure of the identification process under the settlement plan and called for a negotiated political solution.
"After five years in the Sahara (from 1993 to 1998) I delegated my responsibility to my successor and I wrote a book in which I explained why the identification process could not succeed," he said.
Mr Peter Van Walsum, who succeeded me, took the same guidelines as mine stressing that independence was not a realistic option, "said Jensen, noting that the Sahara populations deserve "a decent and safer future in a strategically important region. "
"Members of the Fourth Committee know very well that the principle of self-determination can be applied in different ways: there are options other than independence," he insisted.
Mr. Jensen finally noted that "the settlement of the Sahara issue depends to a large extent to other concerned and influential countries."
In this regard, he felt that "Algeria has a key role to achieve reconciliation and development of the Maghreb region", warning against threats, including resumption of hostilities, destabilization and of terrorism that threaten the region.
Former French FM highlights Van Walsum's 'important' statement on Sahara
Former French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine, highlighted the "important" statement made, last April before the Security Council, by the former UN envoy for the Sahara Peter Van Walsum, which deemed that "the independence of the Western Sahara is not a realistic option."
"In this context, we should be delighted (…) to see the kingdom of Morocco take the initiative to negotiate a status of autonomy and commit to a final political solution," Védrine said in a letter sent to Morocco's ambassador to France, Fathallah Sijilmassi.
He underlined that the friends of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania), starting with France, "all fervently wish that this problem be solved," to "finally give a substance to the Maghreb Arab Union, and give a significant impetus to the Maghreb-Europe relations."
For her part, Muriel Marland-Militello, member of l'Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP) (the Union for a Popular Mouvement), hailed Morocco's “serious and credible” efforts to bring about an autonomy proposal for the Sahara.
Marland-Militello, also deputy mayor of the city of Nice, pointed out, in a similar letter, that “the persistence of the status quo (…) is an obstacle to the establishment of an integrated and prosperous Maghreb and threatens the stability of the entire region.”
She warned that this persistence could also obstruct the creation of a harmonious and efficient Union for the Mediterranean project.
PP regrets Polisario's radicalization
The Spanish Popular Party (PP) on Friday regretted the "radicalization" of the Polisario Front and warned that the Sahara conflict "could exhaust the international community."
In a statement to the Spanish news agency "Servimedia", the spokesman of the PP Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress, Gustavo de Aristegui, said "the concept of autonomy is not incompatible with that of self-determination."
De Aristegui referred to the statements of the United Nations Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for the Sahara, Peter van Walsum, in which he had rejected the option of independence of this region.
"What we call for is a feasible solution, i.e. it should not be utopian and can be accepted by both [opposing] parties" "within the framework of the United Nations and international legality," said De Aristegui.
"It is obvious," he said, "that the international community should stick to what the United Nations say," since the UN attitude "must be accepted".
De Aristegui called for finding a “stable, lasting and peaceful” solution to a “conflict that could deteriorate and exhaust, not only the parties but also the international community,” which would undermine the stability of the region.
However, he warned against a “radicalization” of the Polisario Front, which put forward its proposals with “extreme rigidity and inflexibility” at the last round of negotiations, held in Manhasset.
In this respect, De Aristegui recommended the parties adopt more openness on “dialogue and negotiation”, as Peter Van Walsum himself has described the last four rounds of negotiation “as “sterile because there was a fixed position by the Polisario.”
In addition, De Aristegui stressed that an agreement between Morocco and the Polisario, granting a “larger autonomy” to the region, “is not incompatible either with the concept of self-determination, nor with that of a referendum.”
This concept of “self-determination does not necessarily mean independence” and is “a principle of international law” which can be applied “to decolonization processes,” said De Aristegui, so that “extreme nationalists” cannot “set out to these concepts in order to claim the independence of their territories against the majority opinion of the inhabitants of these territories,” he concluded.
USA reiterates support for Peter van Walsum and his efforts to settle Sahara issue
The United States has shown "unequivocal support" for the UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for the Sahara, Peter van Walsum, deeming "impartial" and "realistic" his efforts to settle the Sahara issue, said a U.S. diplomatic source quoted Tuesday by the Moroccan daily "Aujourd'hui le Maroc".
"The United States supports the negotiations sponsored by the United Nations and the current UN mediator, Peter van Walsum. We believe that his efforts have been impartial and realistic and have promoted dialogue between the parties. These are the qualities needed to settle the conflict," said the same source.
According to the French-speaking daily, the new American statement "is in line with maintaining the UN mediator, against the will of Algiers that has embarked on a hostile campaign against the UN diplomat," accusing him of "bias" for "having simply said out loud what everyone was thinking, by concluding the unreality of the fanciful thesis of independence".
Beyond the unequivocal support it provides to the current UN mediator, says the daily, this American position reaffirms the support of Washington for the autonomy solution, deeming it "realistic".
In this respect, the daily recalls that the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, had already stood up for the UN facilitator, following his report of April 15 last year before the Security Council, wherein he had rejected the option of “independence” advocated by the Polisario and Algeria, describing it as “unrealistic” and not “feasible”.
She had also said that the ideas and suggestions made by Peter van Walsum “deserved to be seriously taken into consideration.”
“Our position on the Sahara remains unchanged, we believe that an autonomy that is mutually accepted is the realistic solution to the Sahara issue, and we have urged both sides to proceed on this basis,” the U.S. diplomatic source, who called on the Polisario to attend a fifth round of negotiations, told the daily.
“The Polisario has entered into direct negotiations with Morocco over the Sahara since June 2007. It freely entered into these negotiations with a mediator mutually agreed on, namely the UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the Sahara, Peter van Walsum,” recalled the U.S. diplomatic source.
Since June 2007, delegations from Morocco, Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have taken part in Manhasset, near New York, in four rounds of negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations and in the presence of Mr. van Walsum in his capacity as facilitator of the negotiations.
Statements by Polisario on Walsum reflect "lack of good faith" , FIAS
The statements made recently in Algiers by Polisario leaders, refusing to take part in the 5th round of talks on Sahara in presence of the Personal Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Peter Van Walsum, reflect a position "devoid of good faith," said the International Federation for Autonomy in the Sahara (FIAS).
"It is unacceptable to block the development of talks by such positions which go against the UN recommendations," said FIAS in a statement received Thursday at MAP-Paris.
The opinion of Mr. Van Walsum saying that the independence of the Sahara is an unrealistic option and that the solution can only be autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, is part of his mission as the envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General responsible for evaluating the process of talks and making realistic proposals, says the ISAF.
The Federation points out that the Moroccan proposal in the southern provinces, described as realistic by the international community, is "a political basis" for negotiations.
Sahara independence “is nor viable”, Canaries paper
The independence of the Sahara is not viable and only autonomy "would make progress in resolving a conflict" that has lasted for over 30 years, said Sunday, the Canary Islands newspaper "La Provincia."
In an article signed Francisco Pomares, the newspaper said that the personal envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Sahara, Peter Van Walsum, was clear when he said that independence of the Sahara n is not a realistic option.
"This is not the first time a UN Special Envoy speaks with such clarity, but this is the first time it is included in a report to the Security Council," said Pomares, who was the director of L'Opinion de Tenerife.
"" What Van Walsum said is the truth," he added and continuing to talk about self-determination would only perpetuate a situation of injustice for another 30 years, he said, believing that " time may be adequate to begin a speech change...".
Call to change UN Personal Envoy for Sahara is 'illogical', Al Hayat paper
The call to change the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Sahara, Peter van Walsum, is "illogical", said Arabic-language daily "Al-Hayat", deeming that it would result in attempts to "remove an international mediator every time he is not appreciated by one of the parties."
The way the UN deals with the Sahara issue requires collaborating partners, as it would not impose a solution on the parties concerned without their consent with regard to its formula or mechanisms aimed at reaching a compromise-based solution, underlined the London-based daily.
"In case any party evades responsibility to move forward in the search of a such a solution, the principle of total collaboration is then violated," the paper went on to say, noting that no party has the right to impose on the United Nations a mediator of its own choice to pursue the remaining negotiation process, as it will not secure the conditions of neutrality and objectivity.”
The decision of the UN to confirm Peter van Walsum’s status shows that the international organization “applies the rule that stipulates that a good arbitrator should not be changed in the last moments of any game.”
The paper concluded that after “a timid beginning”, the Sahara negotiations are more and more considered as “the most efficient means” to reach a solution, which makes unjustified any “return to point zero.”
News and events on Western Sahara issue / Corcas