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UN envoy meets with Polisario Chief in Algeria

ALGIERS (AFP) – The United Nations (UN) new Western Sahara envoy met with the leader of the pro-independence Polisario Front in neighbouring Algeria, state media reported, as part of his first official regional tour.

Staffan de Mistura, a former UN envoy to Syria, met the Polisario’s Brahim Ghali in a camp for Sahrawi refugees outside the desert town of Tindouf, Algeria’s official APS news agency said.

The Polisario chief told the envoy that his organisation sought “a just and fair solution” that “guarantees the Sahrawi people their right to self-determination and full national independence”, APS reported.

The Polisario Front, which took up arms in the 1970s to seek independence in the disputed Western Sahara, demands an independence referendum on the basis of a 1991 deal that included a ceasefire.

Morocco sees the former Spanish colony, with access to lucrative phosphate resources and rich Atlantic fisheries, as its sovereign territory.

It has offered limited autonomy but rejected calls for independence. Neighbouring Algeria backs the Polisario. The last UN-led talks, under De Mistura’s predecessor Horst Kohler, were held in Switzerland in 2019, in a roundtable format including Morocco, the Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania.

Algiers has since refused to take part in further roundtable discussions.

De Mistura met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat on Thursday.

Moroccan officials reiterated the kingdom’s “commitment to the resumption of the political process conducted under the exclusive auspices of the UN to achieve a political solution” based on a Moroccan plan for autonomy, the official MAP agency reported.

United Nations Envoy Staffan De Mistura (2nd R) talks with Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (2nd L) during a meeting in Rabat, Morocco. PHOTO: AP