Top UN envoy for Western Sahara resigns

Thursday 23rd May, 2019
Horst Kohler

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 (Xinhua/GNA) - The personal envoy of the UN secretary-general for Western Sahara, Horst Kohler, has resigned for health reasons, said the United Nations on Wednesday.

Kohler on Wednesday informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of his decision to step down, said Guterres' press office in a "note to correspondents".

Guterres deeply regretted Kohler's resignation but said he fully understood the decision and extended his best wishes to the former German president, said the note.

Guterres expressed his profound gratitude to Kohler for his "steadfast and intensive efforts", which laid the foundation for the new momentum in the political process on the question of Western Sahara, it said.

The UN chief also thanked the parties concerning Western Sahara and the neighboring states for their engagement with Kohler in the political process, said the note.

Western Sahara was partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania at the end of Spain's colonial rule in 1976. When Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas in the territory, abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979, Morocco moved to occupy that sector and has since asserted administrative control over the whole territory.

Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which was fighting for the independence of Western Sahara.

A cease-fire was signed in September 1991. The United Nations deployed a mission in Western Sahara the same year to monitor the cease-fire and to organize, if possible, a referendum on self-determination of the people of the territory.

GNA