Europe also shared concerns regarding the violation of the ceasefire in the region.
Rabat – The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, expressed concerns regarding the situation in Guerguerat.
Borell discussed the latest developments in the buffer strip with Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita on Sunday.
The top EU official insisted on the preservation of freedom of movement and cross-border trade in the region.
Borell’s remarks came after the Polisario Front and its supporters staged illegal protests, violating UN resolutions as Guerguerat is in a restricted buffer zone.
The violations included a blockade of cross-border traffic for more than three weeks, starting October 21.
The illegal acts sparked outrage among truck drivers and several countries in the Middle East and Africa, who condemned the separatist group’s move in Guerguerat.
Borell said that cross-border trade has a significant impact on the “entire Maghreb and Sahel region, an area of strategic importance.”
The European official also emphasized the importance of a political solution to the Western Sahara dispute to secure regional cooperation between the Maghreb countries, as well as regional stability and security.
Renewed calls for a new Western Sahara envoy
The EU high representative renewed his support for the UN-led political process and expressed hope to see a “rapid resumption of discussions under the leadership of the United Nations,” as well as the appointment of a new personal envoy for Western Sahara.
The Security Council in October also called for the appointment of a new envoy and paid tribute to the former envoy to Western Sahara, Horst Kohler, who resigned due to health problems in May 2019.
Kohler was a key UN official and played an important role in the political process, as he was able to convene the parties to the conflict for two roundtables of discussion.
Parties to the conflict expected to meet for a third roundtable, which did not happen due to Kohler’s resignation.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, vowed that the search for a replacement for Kohler is ongoing.
Polisario’s persistence on conflict
The UN repeatedly called on Polisario and its supporters to leave the region, denouncing any attempt to change the area’s status quo.
Polisario, however, insists on the collapse of its ceasefire with Morocco.
The reluctance of Polisario to leave the region forced Morocco’s army to intervene in Guerguerat.
Following Morocco’s operation on Friday, the separatists’ sympathizers fled and the flow of goods and people resumed in secure conditions.
Borell also held talks with Algeria’s foreign minister Sabri Boukadoum on the same topic.
Algeria continues to oppose Morocco’s territorial integrity, backing Polisario’s illegal moves in the area.
Instead of condemning Polisario’s ceasefire violations, Algeria is calling Morocco’s intervention to secure stability and unimpeded traffic a “violation.”
Morocco’s government responded to the hostile statements, saying that the Moroccan army is ready to respond to any further provocations in the region.