Several countries and international news outlets have responded to the military action on the border with Mauritania
Rabat – After a day filled with tensions and threats from the Algerian-backed Polisario militia, global responses express support and concern.
Countries and international news outlets have responded in a variety of ways to Morocco’s intervention to reopen the border crossing in Guerguerat. The vital crossing point connecting Morocco with Mauritania had been blocked for weeks by Polisario forces, grinding civilian trade to a halt. As the operation developed throughout the day, reactions poured in from across the globe.
Calls for restraint
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has urged both sides to show “maximum restraint.” A press statement from the Russian ministry stated that Moscow has “taken notice of the growing tension” and called on both Morocco and the Polisario militias to “strictly comply with the ceasefire agreement.” Russia acknowledged the blockade of the border crossing and expressed hope for a “fair and lasting peace” through diplomatic means via UN channels.
For his part, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “grave concern” over the possible consequences of the operation. Morocco’s response to “a reported highway blockade” in Guerguerat came after unsuccessful attempts by the UN to avoid escalation, according to the UN statement. Guterres stated that he “remains committed” to avoiding a collapse of the UN-negotiated 1991 ceasefire agreement.
Calls for restraint from Russia and the UN had little effect on reporting from both Algerian sources and the Polisario leadership.
In a letter to the UN Secretary-General and President of the Security Council Rhonda King, Polisario leader Ibrahim Ghali called Morocco’s Gueguergat operation an “aggressive attack.” . Ghali claimed Morocco had launched a “brutal attack against unarmed Sahrawi civilians,” despite not mentioning any casualties or even injuries.
Media in Algeria similarly condemned Morocco’s “military aggression.” The response comes as little surprise to international observers, not least because Algeria is known for hosting Polisario forces and directly sponsoring their “independence struggle.” Algeria’s Movement for National Reform party stated that Morocco’s operation in Guerguerat was an attack on civilians and ignored “all decisions of international legality.”
Messages of support
Countries in the Gulf have positively reacted toMorocco’s operation to lift the Guerguerat blockade. Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia all released statements of support for Morocco’s intervention after weeks of blocked trade with its southern neighbor Mauritania.
The US government remained quiet on Morocco’s operation in Guerguerat. Yet, amid the operation the US military published a press release officially announcing future large-scale military exercises with Morocco.
Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognized Morocco’s efforts “to restore security and safety in the buffer zone of Guerguerat.” The supportive Gulf nations condemned the Polisario blockade that aimed to provoke a Moroccan reaction. The UAE called Polisario’s blockade “desperate and unacceptable provocations and practices.”
Spanish outlet Lavanguardia was supportive of Polisario, similar to many Spanish sources. Yet the newspaper accurately described Polisario’s acts in Guerguerat as a last-ditch effort to provoke Morocco into a new crisis.
For the Spanish newspaper, Polisario wanted to drag Morocco into a confrontation to make up for its recent diplomatic setbacks at the UN. The group hoped to provoke Morocco and then frame its self-defense response as a savage declaration of war in order to gain global sympathy and revitalize its faltering cause, Lavanguardia concluded.
Jeune Afrique, the Paris-based newspaper known for its in-depth coverage of Africa-related issues, took the wind out of Polisario’s claims of violence and “brutal” attacks against civilians. Describing first-hand accounts of the Guerguerat operation, Jeune Afrique confirmed the presence of UN peacekeepers that witnessed Morocco’s clearing of the blockade.
Joining the fray, Mauritanian news outlets expressed relief over the resumption of vital cross-border trade with Morocco following the Guerguerat operation. They framed Morocco’s intervention as a much-needed move to restore freedom of movement.
Meanwhile, the New York Times remained skeptical of both sides of the Western Sahara conflict. It reported that Morocco’s activity in Guerguerat threatened “a fragile truce.” But it questioned Polisario’s claims that Moroccan forces had shot at civilians, pointing out that there have been no reports of deaths or injuries.
Local US media were less cautious in their reporting. “Morocco attacks Polisario rebels who controlled frontier crossing with Mauritania for 23 days” was the headline in several smaller outlets. The Florida Star, Tennessee Tribune and others quoted African sources that disputed Polisario claims and emphasized the relatively peaceful nature of the Moroccan operation.