Describing Western Saharan independence as unrealistic is a “stab in the back for [all those in the UN] who have made efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict”. This was the reaction of Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), to the words of UN special envoy Peter Van Walsum. The Sahrawi Foreign Affairs Minister, Mohammed Salem Ould Salek, responded by claiming that the independence of the Sahrawi people was now “irreversible”.
The leaders of the unrecognized Sahrawi Government were not alone in expressing their indignation after the envoy’s comments. Dumisani Kumalo, UN ambassador for South Africa, which currently holds the rotating Security Council presidency, highlighted the contradiction between Van Walsum’s position and that of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who is openly in favour of peace talks between Morocco and the main Sahrawi political movement, Polisario Front. As recently as 16 April, an official UN statement expressed regret for the current deadlock in discussions.
Mohammed Abdelaziz reiterated Polisario Front’s intention to “continue talks under the auspices of the United Nations with the aim of finding a political and peaceful solution to the conflict, based on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination,” reported Basque newspaper Gara.
Two years ago Algeria, a regional ally of the SADR, declared Van Walsum persona non grata in Algiers and Tindouf, where there are Sahrawi refugee camps. The Algerian press have criticized the diplomat for his recent comments about the SADR. Sahara Press Service, the official SADR news agency, has compiled the reactions of Algerian newspapers, most of which believe Van Walsum is unfit to continue as mediator after claiming he is against Western Saharan self-determination.
Photo: Mohammed Abdelaziz, President of the SADR.
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- Moroccan government: Peter Van Walsum persona non grata en Argel y Tinduf