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Sahara : «A selection process is under way» to appoint a personal envoy, Antonio Guterres says

In a reassuring statement, UN Secretary-General said that a «selection process is under way» to appoint a new personal envoy. Antonio Guterres’ words come as the Polisario has threatened to abandon the political process.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. / DR

Months after Horst Köhler resigned due to health reasons, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that «a selection process is under way» to appoint a new personal envoy to Western Sahara.

Interviewed by French-language magazine Jeune Afrique, Thursday, Guterres said that «[he] hopes to be able to appoint someone as soon as possible».

Addressing the Western Sahara conflict and other issues in Africa, Guterres said that «the United Nations remains fully committed to supporting the parties in finding a political solution that will be fair, acceptable to all, and above all that will put an end to this conflict, which has been going on for too long».

However, the Portuguese diplomat described the Western Sahara issue as a «complex» one. «I remain convinced that with a strong political will on the part of the parties and the international community, a solution is possible», he told the Paris-based magazine.

The Polisario has been impatient since September

Guterres’ statement comes as the Polisario Front has complained several times about the delay in appointing a new personal envoy, claiming that it is «hindering the political process». Last week, the separatist movement threatened to abandon the process and no longer participate «in operations led by the UN».  

«The Saharawi people have been betrayed (...) they have lost confidence in the United Nations organization» which is currently «unable to face the Moroccan regime», alleged the Polisario Front. In December, and during the Front’s 15th Congress, Brahim Ghali voiced the same threats.

In October, the Polisario Front sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In a menacing tone, the separatist movement’s head Brahim Ghali rejected the «conditions» imposed by Morocco when it comes to the appointment of a new personal envoy to Western Sahara.

In September, the Polisario sent a letter to the permanent representative of Russia in the United Nations, Ambassador Vassilly Nebenzia, whose country presided the Security Council during that month.

«Three months have passed since the sudden resignation of Horst Köhler (…) The delay in appointing a new personal envoy has blocked the political process», wrote Brahim Ghali.

Antonio Guterres' reassuring statements confirm rising tensions with the Polisario Front. In fact, while campaigning against hosting the 2020 Futsal in Laayoune, the Polisario said that it wanted to seize the African Union instead of the UN.

For the record, talks on the Western Sahara question have been stalled since the resignation of Horst Köhler in May 2019.

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