Rabat – Despite the United Nations’ continuous warnings regarding the Guerguerat buffer strip between Mauritania and Morocco’s southern provinces, Mauritanian observers have detected suspicious moves exerted by the Polisario Front near the restricted area.
Moroccan daily Al Massae reported on the weekend of December 17 that Mauritanian observers have detected suspicious activities conducted by armed militias of the separatist group in Mauritania’s northern borders. The sources quoted by the newspaper said that these activities are more likely to be operations and military exercises that the Polisario Front used to exercise in the buffer strip before its withdrawal.
Al Massae said that this is the first time that armed elements of the separatist group Guerguearathave ventured into this area since it was forced by the UN to withdraw on April 27. However, the Algerian-backed movement has been threatening to re-enter the area for months.
Earlier this week, Polisario addressed a message to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, saying that it would no longer accept the situation on the ground, threatening to access the restricted area.
The letter, which was addressed by the separatist group leader Ibrahim Ghali, says that “the situation has not changed” in the region, claiming that “the UN Security Council resolution on the regulation of the status of the buffer strp of El Guerguerat in accordance with the ceasefire agreement“ has not yet been implemented.”
Polisario also accused Morocco of violating the resolution, claiming that “the Moroccan presence in the buffer zone constitutes a direct violation of the resolution.” Morocco, however, was the first to comply with the orders of the UN, when this latter called on both sides to withdraw their forces from the region.
Morocco’s Peaceful Commitment to End Four-Decade Issue
Morocco withdrew its law enforcement officers from the area on February 26 immediately after a statement issued by the UN chief, where he called on “the parties to unconditionally withdraw all armed elements from the buffer stream as soon as possible, to create an environment conducive to a resumption of the dialogue in the context of the political process led by the United Nations.”
The separatist group did not accept the UN’s request until April 30, and continued to harass Moroccan truck drivers in the buffer strip by setting up illegal checkpoints in the area. The Polisario Front also attempted to hinder trade between Morocco and other African countries through illegal checkpoints led by mercenaries proclaiming themselves “National Gendarmerie” of Polisario.
After the continuous refusal of Polisario to withdraw its forces from the region, a draft resolution on the Western Sahara was submitted “in blue” – meaning ready for adoption – to the secretariat of the UN Security Council on Thursday, April 27.
The draft resolution put high pressure on Polisario, urging it to withdraw from the Guerguerat region or face a compulsory withdrawal The Security Council expressed its “deep concern with the continued presence of elements of the Polisario Front in the buffer strip in Guerguerat,” asking for its immediate and “unconditional withdrawal from the region.”
Shortly after the UN Security Council submitted its blue document, Polisario started withdrawing its forces from the region on April 30.
Polisario did not back away from the region until April 30 after months of increased tension in the region, which began when armed members of the separatist group started making incursions into the region.