The UN envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, arrived Tuesday in Algeria, last leg of a tour in North Africa. The tour took place just few days before he submits a report to the Security Council which is to debate the issue at the end of the current month.
Before Algiers, Christopher Ross had made a stopover in Tindouf, the Polisario’s stronghold in Algeria, and visited Rabat, Laayoune and Smara in Morocco.
Ross’s tour in the two Western Saharan cities of Laayoune and Smara finally unfolded without any major disruption, contrary to the predictions of the Polisario and Algeria which had incited their Sahrawi supporters to stage violent protest movements concurrently with the UN envoy’s visit. The protest plan was sketched out several weeks prior to the UN envoy’s arrival in the region.
The plan was meant to stir trouble to attract the media’s attention and find reason to denounce human rights violations by Moroccan security forces. However, the protest movement failed to mobilize crowds and only a few dozen young people took to the streets in Laayoune Saturday. Law enforcement agents ignored the throwing of stones and other incendiary objects.
Meanwhile, Christopher Ross was holding talks with local officials in Laayoune, with delegates of pro-union Sahrawis and also with pro-Polisario supporters who freely expressed their views.
This is the UN envoy’s third visit to Western Sahara since his appointment to the position in 2009.
Ross is trying to convince Morocco and the Polisario to resume the negotiations stalled for several months. The stumbling block lies in the opposition of Algeria and the Polisario to the Moroccan autonomy plan, with Algiers persisting in its whim to create a republic in the Sahara.
The Moroccan autonomy proposal, widely supported by the international community, was described by the UN Security Council as “a serious and credible” basis for negotiations and for a political settlement of the Western Sahara conflict.