UN-led talks on Western Sahara end with plans to meet again in 2019

Horst Koehler said it is clear to me that nobody wins from maintaining the status quo. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018

UN-led talks on Western Sahara end with plans to meet again in 2019

  • Koehler spoke after two days of talks involving a top Polisario envoy and the foreign ministers of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania over the country.

GENEVA: The UN secretary-general’s envoy for Western Sahara on Thursday wrapped up the first talks in six years over the future of the territory mostly controlled by Morocco, saying the sides have agreed to meet again early next year.

Former German President Horst Koehler hailed “a first, but an important, step” toward resolving a decades-old standoff between Morocco and the independence-minded Polisario Front.

He spoke on Thursday after two days of talks involving a top Polisario envoy and the foreign ministers of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania over the country.

“From our discussions, it is clear to me that nobody wins from maintaining the status quo,” Koehler said, expressing hopes for the emergence of “environment in the region that is conducive to strong growth, job creation and better security.”

“My conviction remains that a peaceful solution to this conflict is possible,” he said in prepared remarks, declining to take questions from reporters after the talks at the UN in Geneva. “I look forward to inviting the delegations to a second round-table meeting in the first quarter of 2019.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “Discussions that took place in an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness and mutual respect, and the fact that the delegation agreed with Mr. Kohler to come back for a second round is something that is clearly a positive step forward.”


Palestinian cyclists say attacked by Israeli settlers after trail app led them astray

Updated 22 July 2020

Palestinian cyclists say attacked by Israeli settlers after trail app led them astray

  • Komoot led them east toward a rocky path near the Israeli settlement of Shilo

RAMALLAH: A group of Palestinian cyclists say they were attacked by Israelis in the occupied West Bank after a popular trail app landed them on a remote path dotted with Jewish settlements.
Avid cyclist Amer Kurdi set out on Saturday with his brother and three others on what was supposed to be an 80-km (50-mile) ride, using the cycling, hiking, and mountain biking app Komoot to chart a path north from the Palestinian village of Birzeit.
The West Bank, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, is scattered with Israeli settlements which its 3 million Palestinians mostly cannot enter, as well as checkpoints and military bases that Israel says it needs for its security.
Over an hour into their ride, Kurdi said Komoot led them east toward a rocky path near the Israeli settlement of Shilo. He said a group of Hebrew-speaking men, whom the cyclists later took to be Israeli settlers, approached and asked where they were from.
Kurdi, 30, replied that they were from the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Soon after, the men — Kurdi estimates there were five or six — started throwing stones at them, using T-shirts to hide their faces, Kurdi and his brother, Samer, said.
“The others managed to run away, but I tripped and fell,” Samer, 28, said. “When I got up, a settler was behind me, and he started beating me with a metal rod.”
Photos the cyclists took after the incident, which they reported to Israel’s police, show Samer’s legs and arms bruised and bloodied.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said they are investigating.
Palestinians complain that navigation apps fail to grasp the West Bank’s complexity.
Asked for comment, Komoot said it regretted the incident but that its service is not specifically optimized for route planning “through areas of political unrest.”
Amer Kurdi says the incident will not keep him from cycling.
“I’ll wear a camera. I’ll be more careful when using apps,” he said.
“But we won’t stop. We will stand up for our right to bike.”