The UN mediator for the Sahara, Christopher Ross, who has just completed a tour in Morocco, in the Tindouf camps and in the neighboring countries, proposed to the UN Security Council a new approach in the Western Sahara conflict settlement process.
Ross who also visited Paris and Madrid, two of the five members of the Group of Friends of Western Sahara, consisting of Britain, France, Russia, Spain and the United States, is also planning to visit in January Washington, Moscow, London and possibly Brussels.
According to sources close to the UN, Ross’s new approach would consist in undertaking regular “diplomatic shuttles” in the region, as a prelude to direct negotiations.
The UN mediator who briefed on Wednesday the Security Council, meeting behind closed doors, on his latest tour in the region, has reportedly suggested the need to adopt a new approach under which “diplomatic shuttles”, including regular visits and consultations, will be undertaken in the region (Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Tindouf camps), the same source said.
This approach seems to gain the support of several member states of the Security Council and the commitment of all the parties involved, including Morocco. It goes without saying that the negotiation process which has dragged for too long without reaching any tangible solutions requires a new impetus and new approaches.
Christopher Ross is seemingly seeking ways to quickly reach direct negotiations instead of limiting the process to informal talks which yielded, after nine rounds, no concrete results on the ground.
According to information filtering through the Security Council, during his briefing, Ross also raised the threat posed by the rise of extremism and terrorism and the proliferation of criminal gangs in Mali and the Sahel.
For the Security Council members, Ross’s recent visit in the region was successful insofar as the UN mediator met, for the first time, many civil society interlocutors on both pro-Moroccan and pro-Polisario sides in addition to the officials he used to confer with.
However, for observers who are closely following the Sahara conflict, the new approach proposed by Ross has little chance to break the deadlock as long as the positions of the parties to the conflict remain at diametrically opposed ends.