Ross in Morocco on latest Western Sahara peace push
RABAT - The UN's Western Sahara envoy met Morocco's foreign minister Monday, official media reported, during a new tour of the region to push for a peaceful resolution to the frozen conflict.
Christopher Ross was received by Salaheddine Mezouar and his deputy Mbarka Bouaida, Morocco's MAP new agency said, without giving further details of the meeting.
Last week he visited Algeria, the main backer of the pro-independence Polisario Front, where he met Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, and then travelled to the Sahrawi refugees camps in Tindouf, in western Algeria, where he held talks with Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz.
Appointed in 2009 as the personal envoy to the Western Sahara of UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Ross said after his last regional tour in October that there was still no hope of convening face-to-face talks between Morocco, which occupies the disputed territory, and the Polisario Front.
"He will convene another round of face-to-face negotiations between the parties only when prospects for progress at a joint meeting of the parties improve," said a UN statement released after the Security Council talks.
His comments came as a diplomatic row erupted between Rabat and Algiers after Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika publicly criticised Morocco's human rights record in Western Sahara, sparking an angry exchange between the arch North African rivals.
Morocco annexed the former Spanish territory in 1975, and Polisario guerrillas took up arms to fight for an independent state, until the UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
The Algeria-based movement rejects Morocco's proposal of broad autonomy for the territory, insisting on its right to a promised referendum on self-determination.
Successive attempts by the United Nations to broker a permanent settlement have got nowhere.