As he left for Spain today to continue consultations on Western Sahara, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Envoy on the matter said that his talks with Algerian officials had been “intensive, frank and useful.”
"These discussions dealt with Algeria’s position toward the Western Sahara issue and the best means to resume the negotiating process,” Christopher Ross said before resuming a trip which has taken him to Rabat, Morocco and Sahara refugee camps and which will continue in Paris and Washington.
He recalled that negotiation between the parties –Morocco and the Polisario Front –¬ were called for by the Security Council to find a “just and lasting political solution…that provides for self-determination for the Saharawi people," he said.
Morocco holds that its sovereignty over Western Sahara should be recognized, while the Frente Polisario’s position is that the Territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum that includes independence as an option.
In Algeria, discussions were held with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs by Mr. Ross, for whom this is the first trip to the area since taking up his post last month.
At this stage of his trip, he said, he had "arrived at a clear understanding of the positions and points of view of the two parties and one of the neighbouring states and have found them to have a sincere desire to continue down the road and support my efforts."
He added that he also intends to visit Mauritania at the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr. Ross, who replaced previous Personal Envoy Peter van Walsum, is expected to return to New York following the trip for further consultations at UN Headquarters.
Several rounds of UN-led talks, bringing together representatives from Morocco and the Frente Polisario, held last year resulted in the parties agreeing to continue negotiations in good faith towards a solution to the issue.