The UN chief has expressed “grave concern” at the possible consequences which could arise from an operation reportedly launched by the Moroccan Government on the southern border of Western Sahara, in response to a reported highway blockade by supporters of the pro-independence Frente POLISARIO.
In recent days, the UN has been involved in multiple initiatives to avoid an escalation of the situation in Western Sahara’s Buffer Strip in the Guerguerat area, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General said in a statement issued on Friday.
According to Stéphane Dujarric, UN chief António Guterres has warned against violations of the ceasefire that was agreed upon in 1991 and the serious consequences of any changes to the status quo.
“The Secretary-General regrets that these efforts have proved unsuccessful and expresses grave concern regarding the possible consequences of the latest developments”, the statement said.
In late 1975, fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, known in English as the Polisario Front, as the Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara was ending.
A ceasefire was reached on 6 September 1991 and a UN mission – known as MINURSO – was tasked with monitoring it and organizing a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.
However, in the absence of an agreement between the parties, the referendum was not held.
In August 2017, the UN chief appointed former German President Horst Köhler as his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.
During his tenure Mr. Köhler convened two roundtable meetings on in December 2018 and March 2019 that created a new momentum in the political process.
The UN spokesperson upheld that the Secretary-General “remains committed” to doing his utmost to avoid the collapse of the 1991 ceasefire and is determined to “do everything possible to remove all obstacles to the resumption of the political process”.
“MINURSO is committed to continue implementing its mandate and the Secretary-General calls on the parties to provide full freedom of movement for the Mission in accordance with its mandate”, the statement concluded.