Horst Köhler, who was the president of Germany for six years, left his post as UN envoy to the territory of Western Sahara. His departure for health reasons leaves the conflict to settle, a decades-long dispute in limbo.
The former German president announced he would step down on Wednesday, two years after assuming the role of personal envoy to the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara.
Mr Koehler, 76, told the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in a telephone call, the UN statement said.
Former President Köhler spearheaded UN efforts to end the long-standing impasse between Morocco and the Polisario Front.
Guterres thanked Köhler for his “constant and intense efforts that laid the groundwork for a new impetus in the political process on the question of Western Sahara,” the statement said.
In a statement issued by the Polisario Front, the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people, he says he is deeply saddened to learn of the resignation of the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy, former German President Horst Kӧhler.
Polisario emphasizes and appreciates the efforts of the personal envoy in pursuing a just and lasting solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and their dynamism in relaunching the UN peace process in Western Sahara.
In the statement the Frente POLISARIO affirms that it remains totally committed to the political process led by the UN and to the realization of the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence. The liberation movement urges the UN Secretary-General to expedite the appointment. a new Personal Envoy, who shares the strong conviction, stature and determination of President Koehler and warns that it is imperative that the departure of the Personal Envoy is not used as an excuse to delay or hinder progress since the first UN-led round table on the Western Sahara, held in December 2018.
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement saying that it regrets the resignation of the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy to the “Moroccan Sahara”.
The statement states once again that it is available to resolve the regional dispute over the “Moroccan Sahara”, but that it must be under the Autonomy Initiative.
The terminology used “Moroccan Sahara” country or region that does not exist, as can be seen in all official maps of the UN and the imposition of the autonomy plan are clear indicators of Morocco’s lack of availability to carry out any plesbicit.
Koehler’s resignation comes after two rounds of talks marking the first time in six years that the parties have met at the negotiating table.
Morocco, which invaded and occupied the territory after the withdrawal of Spain in 1975. In 1991 Morocco and Polisario Front signed a ceasefire agreement which is based on holding a referendum on independence but whose achievement Morocco has boycotted demanding the imposition of a plan of autonomy without consultation of the Saharawi people.
Recent talks have involved Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front.
Köhler was the German president, largely ceremonial head of state from 2004 to 2010 and served as head of the International Monetary Fund from 2000 to 2004.
He resigned due to comments he made on the need for countries like Germany, which depend heavily on foreign trade, to understand the importance of military intervention in defending their interests. Köhler’s words were widely interpreted as related to Germany’s domestically unpopular role in the NATO-led fighting force in Afghanistan, something he denied.