Saharawi: Morocco Hints at War over The Occupied Country

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The UN's Guterres. World leaders want negotiations while Morocco saber rattles 

 

After Polisario Front, the movement for the independence of Western Sahara suggested that it would relocate its ministers into liberated territory Morocco which occupies the resource-rich territory sharply escalated tensions by saying it would not rule out war. 

 

Moroccan Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Omar Hilale, accused Polisario of violating the ceasefire agreement by allowing in its armed elements in Guerguerat buffer zone and expected transfer of Ministerial premises to liberated territories. “Morocco will not stand idly by the deterioration of the situation on the ground,” said Mr. Hilale. 

 

Separately, returning from a visit to Israel after the appointment of John Bolton as national security adviser, Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita echoed Hilale's rhetoric when called for an extraordinary meeting between the Parliamentary Committees of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministry. "Morocco will not tolerate Polisario’s ongoing provocative maneuvers to alter the buffer zone agreed upon by both parties under the UN supervision,” Bourita said in a statement to reporters after the meeting. The minister lashed out at Algeria, which hosts Polisario Front, as being behind the liberation movement's alleged attempts to penetrate into the buffer zone.

 

Polisario Front's reply came very quickly when the coordinator with MINURSO --which is the acronym of the UN monitoring team in the occupied country-- Mhamed Kadad, expressed Polisario’s readiness to respond to any Moroccan threat to the liberated territories.  In a press statement Khadad said Morocco was trying to abandon the peace process, adding that there is no option for Morocco but to abide by the international law.

 

The UN spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric dismissed Moroccan allegations of Polisario’s military elements penetration into the buffer zone. Dujarric stated that MINURSO is monitoring the situation very closely. “Our colleagues did not observe any military element movement in the northeast of the buffer zone," Dujarric said in a press conference at the UN headquarters. 

 

Morocco’s escalated saber-rattling could be due to recent major setbacks on the international front with Western Sahara. First, On February 27, the EU’s top court ruled that fisheries agreements between Morocco and EU does not apply to Western Sahara’s territorial water. This ruling came just a few days after the adverse decision of a South African court over a disputed cargo of Western Sahara-mined phosphate seized by South African authorities following a lawsuit by Polisario Front. Morocco continues to export hundreds of millions of dollars worth of minerals illegally mined from the occupied country. South Africa is a major supporter of the people of Western Sahara's right to self determination.

 

Second, Morocco has been rattled by the strong engagement of the special envoy of the UN Secretary General, Horst Köhler - former president of Germany- who is determined to revive the process to end the stalemate in Western Sahara. He recently met many international stakeholders including the EU, AU, U.S., among others, as a push forward towards resuming talks between the parties. Morocco has been hindering the process since 2012. Kohler is expected to meet Russia and China as part of his endeavor to leverage the parties' positions.  Reactivating the negotiation process does not play well with Morocco's agenda which is to offer "autonomy" instead of letting people in the occupied country choose independence. 

 

Third, Morocco’s return as a member of the African Union (AU) did not result in the expulsion of the Saharawi Republic --which is the name Polisario Front and people in the occupied country call their nation. Instead, AU reiterates its firm positions to a peacefully negotiated political solution respecting the right of Saharawi people to self-determination. Both Morocco and Polisario Front are members of the African Union on equal footing.

 

Finally, Morocco is unhappy with the recent report of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who expressed deep concern over: human rights violations in the occupied territories; and, denial of access to the African Union Monitoring Mission and international observers. He also called upon Morocco to allow deployment of an expert mission in the territory to closely monitor the situation in the Gurguerat region. Guterres emphasized the significance of resuming the negotiations between Polisario Front and Morroco.

 

Meanwhile, the Polisario Front now mourns the recent death of one of its prominent leaders, former representative before the UN, Bukari Ahmed. He was a strong advocate for the cause and died peacefully. Although his death will not affect the aspiration of the Saharawi People to self-determination and independence, his extensive experience will be missed.

 

 

Bel-la Lehbib Breica is an independent Journalist and freelance translator based in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

 

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