UN envoy for Western Sahara resigns

Mar 8 2017 - 9:31am

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UN envoy Christopher Ross for the disputed Western Sahara territory has offered his resignation after eight years of trying to bring the Polisario independence movement and Morocco back to negotiations to end their conflict.

Morocco took most of Western Sahara in 1975 following the withdrawal of the colonial power Spain.

The Polisario Front, which says the territory belongs to ethnic Sahrawis, waged a guerrilla war until a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in 1991.

UN attempts to hold a referendum on the future of the region have failed since then, with the two sides deadlocked.

Ross has been the UN special envoy for Western Sahara since January 2009, when he was appointed by the then
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman confirmed to reporters that Ross had offered his resignation.

Feltman said: “he has worked for eight years to try to come up with a framework by which the parties … would be able to renew negotiations, on an unconditional basis, about the permanent settlement of this dispute,” .

“He has been unable to bring the parties back to negotiations and … he has offered his resignation to the secretary-general for the secretary-general to act upon at a time that he sees fit.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres succeeded Ban on Jan. 1.

Morocco in February announced the withdrawal of its forces from a UN buffer zone in the disputed Western Sahara territory, where for months they had been in a standoff with troops from the Polisario independence movement.

The move took place days after a phone call between Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and Guterres, reducing military tensions in Guerguerat, a remote area in Western Sahara near Mauritania.


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