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James Baker, Annan’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, resigns

James Baker, Annan’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, resigns

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, James A. Baker III of the United States, has resigned, a spokesperson for the United Nations said today.

Since his appointment in March 1997, Mr. Baker, along with the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), has been helping the parties settle the territory’s status. The Mission has been operating since April 1991, when it was installed after years of fighting between Western Saharans and Morocco following Spain’s withdrawal from the territory in 1976.

Last year Mr. Baker proposed a peace plan, backed by the Security Council as an “optimum political solution on the basis of agreement” between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro), that envisaged a transition period during which there would be a division of responsibilities between the parties before the holding of a referendum for self-determination that would provide the bona fide residents of Western Sahara with an opportunity to decide their future.

In April, Morocco submitted its final response to Mr. Baker’s plan, expressing a willingness to continue to work to achieve a political solution but also clearly stating that an “autonomy-based political solution can only be final.”