Rabat – With Polisario’s recent escalation east Morocco’s defense wall in Western Sahara, Morocco has warned of a firm response to any further “provocations” from the separatist group. Moroccan experts on the subject shared with Morocco World News incisive analysis on the ongoing crisis and recent escalations in Western Sahara.
Recently, tensions have been mounting between Morocco and the separatist group on the Western Sahara question, following repeated violations of the United Nations 1991 ceasefire agreement, which ended the 42-year war between Morocco and the Algerian-backed movement.
For more than four decades, United Nations secretaries general and personal envoys have been attempting to end the situation, including its goal to relocate its “defense headquarters” in the restricted zone of Bir Lahlou, an area approximately 240 kilometers away from the Moroccan southern province of Es-smara.
Outside of warnings and concerns over the situation, the United Nations and the Security Council have not done enough to make Polisario aware of its dangerous acts in east Morocco’s defense wall, according to Abdelfattah El Fatihi, a Western Sahara and Sahel expert, in an interview with Morocco World News.
El Fatihi went on to say that Polisario has been defying the ceasefire agreement and “has not complied with international resolutions” since the issuance of last year’s report, which urged the front to withdraw from the Guerguerat buffer zone.
Subsequently, the United Nations “has not been firm” in implementing its decisions to pressure Polisario, which has caused it to advance its separatist ideology, including the expansion of its facilities into new restricted areas such as Mhabes, Tifariti and Bir Lahlou, in northeastern Western Sahara.
He added that, facing a lack of UN deterrent measures to push the front to comply with its international resolutions, Morocco can only resort to a military intervention to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty in southern provinces “as long as the UN and MINURSO are no longer able to implement Security Council resolutions in the region.”
On April 2, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson of the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, ruled during a briefing at the UN headquarters in New York that his colleagues from the UN mission, which controls the ceasefire agreement, have not detected any military activities in the region.
The statement, however, came in contrast to Gutteres’s first draft of the April’s report, as well as in a second statement to the Security Council, which was obtained and reported by the Associated Press on the same day.
In both statements, Guterres warned the separatist group of their illegal actions in Guerguerat, asking them to withdraw from the region as they did in April 2017. In his second statement, reported by the AP, Guterres also urged the two main parties to the conflict-Morocco and Polisario-to refrain in order to avoid further escalations in the region, which could hinder the settlement process.
When asked about the denial of the UN spokesperson, Moroccan analyst and academic Reda El Fellah believes that there can be two possibilities behind the UN’s reaction to Polisario’s maneuvers.
“The first one is that the MINURSO is not following the situation east of the security wall for some reasons linked to its ability or its unwillingness to do so.” Referring to the second reason, El Fellah did not exclude the possibility that MINURSO, under the new head of operations [Colin Stewart], is influenced by external pressures that work to disturb the facts and insert discrepancies in the UN discourse and position.”
The Moroccan analyst elaborated upon his argument, emphasizing that “some agendas inside the decision-making bureaucracy, in addition to lobbies inside US and Europe, are pushing for a different path, including the translocation of the Tindouf population and its headquarters east Morocco’s defense wall, as well as the imposition of recognition of the so-called “liberated lands” in order to invoke a pseudo-right to exist as a state.”
According to El Fellah, Morocco’s reaction would be more severe after the Security Council’s awaited report on the Sahara question.
Polisario is actively soliciting the involvement of other parties, including the African Union, to the conflict. However, the United Nations Personal Envoy, Horst Kohler, stressed in his briefing presented to the UN Security Council last month in New York that the United Nations is the only body that has the legitimacy to contribute to an acceptable solution to the conflict.
Furthermore, Kohler said that all of EU and AU officials he met reaffirmed their full support to the United Nations.
Kohler’s statements were echoed by Guterres in his first draft of the April’s report, stating that the United Nations is the only body that has the power to help solve the decades-long conflict. Both observers contacted by MWN commented on Kohler’s report, emphasizing that it is in line with the new dynamic driven by the new secretary general towards a political and mutually-accepted solution.
According to El Fatihi the first draft is balanced and respects Morocco’s position. He added that this document reaffirmed that the UN is still in control of the conflict, as opposed to what the front has been seeking to implement: involving the African Union, which is dominated by a group of forces supporting the separatist plan.
El Fatihi said that the report appears to be similar to the previous reports that are in favor of Morocco’s position on the conflict.
The United Nations Secretary-General issued his report on the Western Sahara situation on March 29. In his report, Guterres urged the separatist group to withdraw from the region, and called on Algeria to shoulder its responsibility and cooperate in finding a solution to the conflict.
Algerian officials, including Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and Foreign Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel, have been denying the country’s involvement in the conflict, claiming that the Western Sahara issue should be solved by Morocco and Polisario alone.
In response to Algeria’s claims, Morocco has contested Algeria’s denial, calling on its eastern neighbor to shoulder its responsibility in the conflict.
“It is Algeria that hosts, arms, backs up, and brings diplomatic support for the Polisario,” said King Mohammed VI in a letter personally delivered to the UNSG by Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Nasser Bourita, in New York on April 4.