The remarks come as Polisario aims to create an international uproar to garner solidarity and pressure Morocco.
Rabat – Former Polisario police chief Mustafa Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said yesterday that the separatist group’s war claims are simply threats to force the UN accelerate the political process to find a solution for Western Sahara.
Mustafa Salma believes that Polisario’s claims of war are mere threats after the political process largely experienced stagnation following the resignation of Horst Kohler, former envoy of the UN secretary-general.
Starting October 21, Polisario staged illegal actions in the Guerguerat buffer zone, near the Moroccan-Mauritanian border.
The buffer zone is one of the most important border crossings for trade in the region. Polisario militiamen and supporters, however, blocked movement across the border for over three weeks.
The situation forced Morocco’s military to take action on November 13 against Polisario’s blockade and secure the region with a security cordon along Guerguerat to ensure the flow of commercial and civil traffic.
Polisario has since called the non-violent operation the start of war and breached the ceasefire through opening fire against Morocco’s military.
Mustafa Salma said Polisario is not taking its war declaration seriously as it did not ask UN observers or local residents to evacuate the area.
He said the Polisario Front wants to keep “the ball rolling with the United Nations, by not tending to a dangerous escalation, with major military operations against the Moroccan army that require a strong Moroccan response.”
The former high-ranking Polisario member said that such a response would force the UN peacekeeping operation, MINURSO, to leave the region and would lead the conflict to the unknown at a “time when Algeria has not yet regained its footing from its political and economic crisis.”
For Mustafa Salma, the Polisario Front is trying such maneuvers to compel a return to the negotiating table with Morocco “without returning to a ceasefire until the United Nations is forced to accelerate the political process.”
Morocco, however, will not give in to Polisario’s attempts at manipulation.
“Morocco is aware of all these facts and will not accept negotiations before the Polisario announces a return to its commitment to the ceasefire,” Mustafa Salma said, adding that Morocco’s government will refuse to retreat from what it achieved in Guerguerat.
He said Morocco achieved its priority goal, with securing the export route to West Africa by extending the defense belt to the Mauritanian border.
The Sahrawi activist, who is now in exile in Mauritania, renewed his thoughts about Polisario’s weakness against Morocco, saying that what the separatist group is using now to escalate tensions in Guerguerat are ineffective machine guns.
Algeria’s role in Western Sahara
Mustafa Salma believes that the situation will not lead to war unless Algeria decides to support the Polisario Front with “long-range missiles” to attack Morocco.
“In any case, the Sahara conflict will not end without a Moroccan-Algerian confrontation, whether at the negotiating table or with war.”
Algeria is among the countries that support the Polisario Front’s independence claims and challenge Morocco’s territorial integrity.
The Algerian government has claimed for years it supports the UN-led political process, without acknowledging itself as a party to the conflict. Additionally, contrary to several other countries who hold a neutral stance, Algiers expresses solidarity with Polisario even in its illegal maneuvers.
Algeria hosts Polisario, financing and arming the separatist group.
Despite its clear stance against Morocco’s territorial integrity and its hostile moves and intervention in Rabat’s domestic affairs, Algeria continues to claim itself as an observer.
In recent years, the UN and its resolutions made it clear that Algeria is a main party to the conflict.
In Resolution 2548 of October 30, the Security Council mentions Algeria five times — like Morocco — reflecting the importance of Algiers’ engagement in the political process as a main party and not as an overseer as it claims.
In the resolution, the UN calls on all parties to work together to contribute to the political process in search of an agreed-upon and a mutually acceptable solution to end the conflict over Western Sahara.