Sahara: EU Hails Momentum Triggered by Geneva Talks

The European Union has welcomed the holding of the initial round table on the Sahara that brought together representatives of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and the Polisario.

The European Union (EU) on Friday expressed its willingness to “contribute to measures likely to create a positive climate” in the UN process on the issue of the Sahara, after “the momentum” given by the first round table held Wednesday and Thursday in Geneva.

The Geneva round table was held Dec.5-6 at the invitation of UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the Sahara Horst Köhler, in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2440.

“The participation of all delegations and the announcement of a second meeting in the first quarter of 2019 show that all participants are ready to continue their engagement under the aegis of the UN,” said the EU in a statement.

The EU insisted on the imperative need to “take advantage of this momentum and to actively pursue the discussions in a spirit of compromise”.

The statement notes that the Geneva talks “have rightly focused on key issues such as regional cooperation, job creation, regional development, stability and security, and youth”.

For the EU, the holding of the first round table in Geneva on the regional dispute over the Sahara reflects “the renewed efforts undertaken by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his Personal Envoy Horst Köhler”, to resolve this dispute and bring together the parties “in a spirit of openness and mutual respect”.

The first UN-led talks in six years over the Sahara concluded on a positive note with the UN personal envoy announcing that further discussions are planned “in the first quarter of 2019”.

Speaking to journalists after the two-day roundtable, Köhler said the meeting was a “first – but important – step” towards a renewed political process on the future of the disputed territory and that “a peaceful solution to this conflict is possible.”

Köhler explained that the ultimate goal is “to create an environment in the region that is conducive to strong economic growth, job creation and better security”.

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita who led the Moroccan delegation to the Geneva meeting also described as “positive” the atmosphere in which this round table took place and announced that Morocco has accepted to participate in a similar second meeting early next year, provided that it is “well prepared”.

The Geneva meeting follows a recent UN Security Council meeting and resolution 2040, adopted end of October, which calls on the parties to the dispute “to engage constructively” in talks.

Parties should “demonstrate political will in order to advance the negotiations”, Council Members said, while also emphasizing the importance of an “enduring political solution based on compromise”.

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