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Polisario Front soldiers sit on a cliff in the Boujdour refugee camp, Algeria. Polisario Front soldiers sit on a cliff in the Boujdour refugee camp, Algeria, Oct. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Getting Diplomacy Back on Track in Western Sahara

Monday, Oct. 25, 2021

After two years of diplomatic deadlock, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed a new envoy for Western Sahara, a territory disputed between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front, which represents the ethnic Sahrawi population of the territory. The recent designation of seasoned Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura marks a much-delayed and critical step forward in a standoff that, if left untreated, risks spreading instability elsewhere in the region

The temperature has been rising of late in this often-overlooked conflict. In November 2020, fighting flared up between Morocco and the Polisario Front. A month later, President Donald Trump threw fuel on the fire and jeopardized the traditional U.S. role as a neutral broker between the parties by recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the territory in exchange for Morocco normalizing its relations with Israel. Since then, Rabat and the Polisario have hardened their respective positions. De Mistura should seize the momentum behind his appointment to offer fresh ideas and a series of confidence-building measures to guide the two sides back to the negotiating table. ...

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