President Ghali Heads to New York to Meet UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

There is an unprecedented diplomatic momentum in the region led by the U.S. and the UN.

Saharawi President Brahim Ghali arrives in New York on Monday to hold talks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters.

He’ll discuss a range of issues of common interest, including the UN-led peace process in Western Sahara blocked since 2018, and ways to speed up the decolonization process.

Saharawi’s representative to the UN Sidi Homar said that talks “come as a part of the ongoing consultations between Polisario Front and UN National Secretariat”.

The meeting comes ahead of the UNGA’s session and deliberations of the UN Fourth Committee for Decolonization, which the Western Sahara issue is on the agenda every year.

The UN considers Western Sahara a non-self-governing territory pending decolonization. It has been on the UN General Assembly agenda since 1963.

In 1988, the UN mediated a ceasefire agreement between Morocco and Polisario Front, following a sixteen years-old war.

It has promised to hold a self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara, which has been agreed upon by the two sides.

The referendum has not yet taken place due to Morocco’s obstructionism and its desire to integrate the territory within the kingdom.

But the specter of war is back in the region again. The over thirty-year-old ceasefire has collapsed.

Morocco’s incursion in the Guerguerat region–UN’s designated buffer strip–and acquisition of further territory of Western Sahara by force, triggered a war with the Polisario Front.

Visits to the region have ramped up in recent days. The U.S. under Secretary of State for North Africa, Joshua Harris, landed in the Sahrawi refugee camps last Saturday to meet with the Saharawi leadership.

Harris expressed his support “for the UN political process to find a political solution” in Western Sahara.  A totally different tone than the one used by the Trump administration, which recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in December 2020.

In the meantime, the UN personal envoy for Western Sahara, Staffan De Mistura, arrived last Monday in El Aaiún, the western Sahara-occupied capital. He had a long overdue meeting with Sahrawi activists and human rights defenders.

Since his appointment in October 2021, it is the first time De Mistura has made it to occupied territories. Morocco banned him from visiting the territory in July 2022.

The visit comes as a part of his work to prepare a report on the situation in Western Sahara that he will deliver to the Security Council end of October.

There is an unprecedented diplomatic momentum in the region led by the U.S. and the UN. But it is too early to tell if it will lead to a breakthrough in the Western Sahara’s long-standing dispute.

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