Moroccan Sahara: Staffan de Mistura soon in the region?

According to various media sources, the new UN envoy to the southern provinces is preparing to make his first major tour of the Maghreb.

Appointed on 6 October 2021 as the personal envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) to the Moroccan Sahara, Staffan de Mistura is finally preparing to make his first major regional tour, according to various media sources.

These suggest that the Italian-Swedish diplomat should meet again in the middle of January in the Maghreb, after having been satisfied for the moment with exchanges with the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, on 3 December 2021 -the two men had met on the sidelines of the seventh edition of the Mediterranean dialogues, held in the Italian capital, Rome-, and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Verchinin, whom he had spoken to on the telephone four days later, on 7 December 2021.

His visit programme would include Morocco of course, possibly including the Sahara region, but also Algeria and Mauritania, which the Security Council has officially considered since April 2017 as stakeholders in the conflict around the southern provinces – bearing in mind that the eastern neighbour has been home to the headquarters of the Polisario Front separatist movement since November 1975, not far from the town of Tindouf, whose leaders Mr de Mistura is also planning to see.

A refusal to accept itWhat is
certain is that Mr. de Mistura will not have an easy task.
de Mistura will not have an easy task: It is known that it was only reluctantly, and mainly due to pressure from the United States, that Morocco resigned itself to endorse him as envoy -the Kingdom had previously refused-, while the Algerian side did not see the Moroccan turnaround in a very positive light and suspects the existence of an agreement under the carpet between Rabat and Washington; This was made sufficiently clear in a dispatch of 16 September 2021 from the Algerian press service (APS), the official Algerian press agency (which had asked the question ‘what was given in return for this acceptance’ by Morocco).

What is more, the Algerian regime simply refuses to participate in the round tables with Morocco, even though the Security Council, in its last resolution of 31 October 2021, called on it to do so. On 12 October 2021, its so-called “special envoy for Western Sahara (sic) and the Maghreb countries”, Amar Belani, had already refused to participate, followed by his country’s diplomacy, which, in reaction to the Security Council’s resolution In reaction to the Security Council resolution, it wished to return to the parameters that had underpinned the ceasefire agreement of 6 September 1991, i.e. the organisation of a referendum, which we now know is impossible to organise (due to the disagreement over the electoral body). Can Mr. de Mistura succeed where the other envoys have all failed?

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