The United Nations says a peaceful solution to the conflict in the disputed Western Sahara region is possible after the conclusion of peace talks it facilitated at Geneva.
The Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Mr Horst Köhler, said the first UN-led talks in six years over the disputed region concluded on a positive note.
The talks came after decades of conflict over ownership has been contained since 1991, by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
“A peaceful solution to this conflict is possible,’’ Köhler insisted.
He explained that further discussions were planned in the first quarter of 2019.
After two days of roundtable discussions, Köhler said the meeting was a “first but important step” towards a renewed political process on the future of the disputed territory.
“I would like to applaud the delegations for having engaged openly and in a spirit of mutual respect,’’ he said, adding that “nobody wins from maintaining the status quo’’.
Köhler added that resolving the conflict “lies in the interest of all’’.
Following the Geneva meeting, he explained that the ultimate goal was “to create an environment in the region that is conducive to strong economic growth, job creation and better security’’.
Looking ahead to 2019 talks, the Personal Envoy expressed the hope that the process would be guided “by a concern for the men and women, the children and youth’’ of the territory.
He commended the representatives from Morocco, the Frente POLISARIO movement, Algeria and Mauritania for “engaging openly and committing to resolving the conflict’’.
Reading an agreed final communiqué, Köhler noted that all delegations “recognised that cooperation and regional integration, not confrontation, were the best way to address important challenges the region is facing’’.
He also underlined the significance of the Geneva meeting, which followed a recent UN Security Council meeting and resolution to extend MINURSO.
The UN secretary-general’s envoy explained that the overall objective was for the people of Western Sahara to take charge of their future.
“The goal of this process is, according to the United Nations Security Council, to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.’’
Adopted on Oct. 31, 2018, UN Security Council resolution 2440 called on the parties to the dispute over Western Sahara “to engage constructively’’ in talks.
Parties should “demonstrate political will in order to advance the negotiations’’, Council Members said.
The Council emphasised the importance of an “enduring political solution, based on compromise and the need to provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in a manner consistent with the Charter of the United Nations’’.