Rabat – UN Secretary General’s spokesperson’s claim that the UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), “has not observed” any Polisario-linked military maneuvers in the southeastern provinces backfired when Polisario fired “warning shots” at the UN, potentially pushing the UN official to alter his earlier position.
Speaking at a news conference on April 20, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric reported that a MINURSO patrol unit was intercepted and faced Polisario gunfire on April 16.
“MINURSO has informed the UN Security Council that on April 16, in the Tifariti area, MINURSO observers were intercepted by Polisario elements, who then proceeded to fire warning [shots],” the UN official said, adding that the observers were deterred from doing their job and could only resume working much later in the day.
According to other reports, the UN official is finally opening up about the occasional interception of UN convoy by military elements; this week’s incident was not an isolated case. There are reports that in March, prior to Mr. Dujarric’s claim of absence of activities in the region, other MINURSO convoys were allegedly targeted and intimidated with warning signs about potential minefields they had been monitoring in the areas, thus preventing the UN mission from doing thorough observations in some areas.
The moves are reportedly an attempt to bar the UN mission from freely moving in the zones where the separatist front’s military maneuvers are more blatant.
Altering his early-April statements, Mr. Dujarric said that the UN Secretary-General “is more than ever preoccupied by the mounting threats” as well as the deadly attacks targeting UN blue helmets. The Frenchman added that this has been the case since the beginning of the UN mission in the area.
Reacting to incident on Thursday this week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his deep concerns about the gradual “loss of respect of UN symbols.” While UN symbols and operatives were previously revered and “respected by even militant groups,” they are now being targeted due to their status as UN officials, Mr. Guterres said. Commenting on the death of UN operatives killed in service between 2016 and 2017, the Portuguese said: “UN personnel are regularly targeted by those who oppose peace.”