This blog is no longer active, but I continue to post at the group blog MAGHREB POLITICS REVIEW.

Aug 12, 2008

New van Walsum interview

Like the Dutch one, but in Spanish:

The Polisario, which is seeking a referendum on self-determination for the former Spanish colony, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975, has "international law on its side," [the United Nations'] mediator Peter van Walsum, a Dutch diplomat, told the newspaper El Pais.

"But the Security Council is not ready to exercise its authority ... and impose it," said the UN secretary general's envoy on the Western Sahara.

The UN Security Council "must respect international law, but it must also take into account the reality on the ground," as "30 years of weighty legal arguments of the Polisario have had no effect," van Walsum said.

In these circumstances, "the independence of the Western Sahara is not an achievable objective."

That was AFP. Full text in Spanish here.


van Kaas said...

This van Walsum person makes me ashamed being dutch. and I agree with the comment on RFI:
"His advice to the Polisario is basically fairly scandalous. It's like telling a rape victim that she should lie back and enjoy it because there is nothing she can do about it";
but the van-Walsum-attitude is in my opinion even more perverse since the dutch managed to sell warships to Morocco while he was responsible for the peace-negotiations.

Laroussi said...

Radio France International not only interviews Ian Willams (you can listen to the interview at RFI's site) from US' think tank Foreign Policy in Focus, they also surprisingly correctly state that Western Sahara "was illegally annexed by neighbouring Morocco in 1975".

Now let's hope that other French media follow this. :)

Laroussi said...

ps. The interview with Ian Williams is short but absolutely worth listening to since it is much longer than the transcript on the RFI site.

van Kaas said...

Ian Williams also wrote a piece in the Guardian from which I quote some stunning suggestions:
"there is a solution from the example of the British Commonwealth" ... "So, enter King Hassan of Western Sahara" ... "Polisario would surely be happy" !!
Well, maybe better check it out for yourself.

Laroussi said...

Ian William's example of the British Commonwealth is a poor one. The British Commonwealth is a union of sovereign and independent member states. Why would Western Sahara have a separate union with Morocco? A future Maghreb union would be a more likely parallel to the Commonwealth.

van Kaas said...

An union of sovereign and independent member states is exactly what Ian proposes, if I read it well. Ofcourse a Maghrebain framework of folklore would be necessary for the balance and it would provide a good historical excuse too.
Btw. I just wonder: is'nt there something like a maghrebian football league? If not, it should be invented.

Laroussi said...

A union between Morocco and Western Sahara with the Moroccan sultan, aka king, as common head of state? That sounds a lot more like the Moroccan annexation proposal than anything remotely positive.

The Commonwealth is a union of some 50 sovereign states, not a union between two countries with one head of state.

I would say that the "union" between Andorra and France is more what Williams has in mind for Western Sahara.

In any case, I doubt any proposal with the Moroccan ruler as head of state, with or without power, for Western Sahara would be accepted.

van Kaas said...

I'm sure it will be hard to imagine for Saharawi's to have anything to do at all with Morocco and it's ruler. But he is a very important neighbour and the relation with him has to be transformed from war into something more civil and durable. Morocco will not go away like a bad dream, but will always be next door.

In negotiations it is very normal to offer something to the other party, be it something material or symbolic. I'm not sure what Polisario has offered to Morocco in the negotiations led by mr. van Walsum, but the special envoy seemed pretty pissed off by what he sees as a lack of intent, so I guess F. Polisario did not bring any present to the negotiation party.

For an outsider Ian's idea does not look bad. It provides in saving the face of the Moroccan king by symbolic means and gives Saharawis effective independence as he calls it. I think it could actually work for the integration of the whole Maghreb. Because if the Algerians would join the symbolic union or commonwealth or whatever, the Saharawi's would feel save in it, and M6 would probably be happy as a butterfly.

Laroussi said...

"In negotiations it is very normal to offer something to the other party, be it something material or symbolic. I guess F. Polisario did not bring any present to the negotiation party."

"I guess"???

You don't think that Polisario has made concessions to Morocco? Maybe you should start by reading the proposal from Polisario that was presented to the Security Council last year. It is full of "presents" to Morocco.

van Kaas said...

Ok, let's see what I can find.. first "The Polisario Front's plan is based on co-operation with Morocco in the economic, security and social spheres. A Polisario Front official who wished to remain anonymous said that the Front's plan indicates the Polisario's readiness for good neighbourliness and strategic relations with Morocco."
Sounds good, it suggests possibilities of concessions and it implies no obstacles to whatever union.

And now the UN. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had received a “proposal of the Polisario for a mutually acceptable political solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”. The security council gives some detail:
In substance it draws on parts of the 2003 Baker Plan (S/2003/565 and Corr.1) that the Polisario still considers valid. The proposal includes a referendum on self-determination with three options: independence, integration into the Kingdom of Morocco and self-governance. (On a side note I would like to add it is remarkable there is no option to return to Spain.)
..the Polisario also seems to guarantee an intimate strategic relationship with Morocco even under the independence option. This would include elements of partnership in the fields of economy, trade and security-including joint-ventures for the exploitation of natural resources and security arrangements-in addition to citizenship for all legally established Moroccan settlers that would apply for it.

Well. Right. True. This implies a lot of concessions. And it sounds very realistic indeed, and I can't see a reason to wait with the gradual implementation of it but for the missing initiation rituals. There have to be some theatrical pump and symbolic gestures to present this solid proposal. Presents should be presented with a fine mesh. It is the mesh, I guess, just the missing mesh.