22 March 2019

Note to Correspondents: Transcript of the press stakeout by Mr. Horst Köhler, Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara on the Second roundtable on Western Sahara

Ladies, Gentlemen, 
I am happy to report to you that we have just finished the second roundtable meeting on Western Sahara.
I would like to commend all delegations for displaying their commitment and engagement in reconvening on this occasion. I would also like to thank the Swiss government for their generous support in the organization of this roundtable. 
As a result of our discussions over the past two days, delegations have agreed on a joint communiqué which I will immediately read to you. But first, allow me to make a few personal remarks. 
The first roundtable held here in Geneva in December was seen as a small but encouraging step in the search for a solution in the Western Sahara conflict. This time, my intention was to consolidate the positive dynamic created by the first meeting and to start approaching more substantive questions. It will not come as a surprise to anyone, when I tell you that this is not and will not be easy. There is still a lot of work ahead of the delegations. Nobody should expect a quick outcome, because many positions are still fundamentally diverging. At the same time, being able to listen to each other even when things get controversial, is an important step to build trust. Genuine efforts are needed to build the trust necessary to make progress. I have therefore encouraged delegations to explore good faith gestures and concrete actions that go beyond the roundtable.
This meeting has demonstrated that all delegations are aware that many people, in particular those whose lives are directly affected by the conflict, are placing their hope in this process. The costs of this conflict, in terms of human suffering, lack of prospects for the youth, and security risks, are far too high to be accepted. Therefore, we must not relent in our search for a compromise. With all the inevitable ups and downs, we must not lose sight that the people of Western Sahara need and deserve this conflict to end. It is in this spirit that I am grateful that the delegations have agreed to continue this process and to convene again in this format.  
I will now read the joint communiqué agreed by all four delegations.
At the invitation of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, former President Horst Köhler of Germany, delegations from Morocco, the Frente POLISARIO, Algeria and Mauritania came together for a second roundtable meeting on 21 and 22 March 2019, near Geneva, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2440. Delegations engaged courteously and openly, in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Delegations welcomed the new momentum created by the first roundtable meeting in December of last year and committed to continue to engage in the process in a serious and respectful manner. Delegations agreed that additional trust needed to be built. 
Delegations held in-depth discussions on how to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the question of Western Sahara that is realistic, practicable, enduring, based on compromise, just, lasting, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2440 (2018). In this regard, they agreed to continue the discussion in order to identify elements of convergence.
There was consensus that the whole Maghreb would greatly benefit from a solution to the question of Western Sahara. Delegations also recognized that the region had a special responsibility to contribute to a solution. 
Delegations welcomed the intention of the Personal Envoy to invite them to meet again in the same format. 
Thank you – and good bye.