Morocco And Polisario Front Face New Western Sahara Escalation
The Western Sahara's Polisario Front group said on Friday that Morocco had broken their ceasefire and "ignited war", but Rabat denied there had been any armed clashes between the sides and said the threedecade truce remained in place.
- Last Updated: November 13, 2020, 21:42 IST
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RABAT/ALGIERS: The Western Sahara’s Polisario Front group said on Friday that Morocco had broken their ceasefire and “ignited war”, but Rabat denied there had been any armed clashes between the sides and said the three-decade truce remained in place.
Tensions between Morocco and the Algeria-backed independence movement have been growing in recent weeks, with pro-Polisario protesters blocking the main road linking the territory to neighbouring Mauritania.
The Polisario seeks Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, which has held the vast desert region since Spain quit in 1974 and regards it as an integral part of its own land.
Blessed with phosphate deposits and rich fishing waters, Western Sahara also provides the only Moroccan land route to the rest of Africa except through Algeria, whose borders with Morocco have been closed for decades.
Morocco said early on Friday it was starting an operation to clear the road in the Guerguerat area and denounced what it called “provocations”.
“Morocco decided to act after giving enough time for the U.N. to intervene,” Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told Reuters, adding that Morocco would build a new sand barrier to stop the Polisario from accessing Guerguerat in future.
“Morocco is committed to the ceasefire,” he said.
The Polisario accused Morocco of breaking the 1991 ceasefire which ended years of guerrilla conflict, adding that the group had clashed on Friday with Moroccan forces.
A Moroccan news site, le360, said the army had used anti-tank weaponry to respond to a Polisario attack.
Bourita said Moroccan forces had fired warning shots but had not engaged in any clashes. He added that the army would only use arms in self defence.
Last month the U.N. Security Council passed resolution 2548 which called for a “realistic, practicable and enduring solution… based on compromise”.
That language was widely seen as calling into doubt any referendum on the territory’s future – a goal long sought by the Polisario and backed by the United Nations in the 1991 ceasefire.
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