Belgium stressed that it is essential to ensure the freedom of movement and trade between Morocco and Mauritania.
Rabat – Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmes has emphasized the importance of the freedom of movement and cross-border exchanges in the Guerguerat region.
She said the border has a significant impact on the entire Maghreb and Sahel region, an area of strategic importance.
Wilmes shared her concerns regarding the situation in Guerguerat during a meeting at the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives on Monday.
She said that her country “obviously shares the concerns following the events in the buffer zone of El Guerguerat and we fully subscribe to the recent decision from the UN Secretary-General.”
The statement followed Polisario’s violations in Guerguerat, included in the MINURSO-monitored buffer zone, in defiance of the UN.
Polisario sent militiamen to the region on October 21, resulting in a serious three-week blockade of goods and people. Morocco authorized a non-offensive operation to end the blockade on November 13.
The Belgian official also reiterated support for the ceasefire agreement in place since 1991 and the efforts of the UN peacekeeping operation in the region, MINURSO.
Wilmes also extended her country’s support for the UN-led political process to find a peaceful settlement to the Sahara conflict.
According to Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the deputy prime minister said Belgium hopes for a “rapid resumption of discussions under the leadership of the United Nations and a new personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General.”
Belgium “fully supports the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to bring together all the parties concerned again in order to relaunch the political process started under the previous personal envoy,” she said.
The Western Sahara conflict experienced a deadlock since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resignation of the former UN personal envoy Horst Kohler.
Kohler resigned last year after health issues. The former envoy was a key element in the political process, having managed to convene the parties to the conflict around a few roundtables of talks.
Since September, Polisario’s provocative moves in Guerguerat escalated tension in the region, prompting Morocco’s November 13 action to restore the flow of goods and people. The separatist group announced the collapse of the ceasefire agreement and breached UN resolutions after opening fire against Morocco’s army.
A long list of countries have voiced support for Morocco’s action in Guerguerat and denounced Polisario’s provocative moves, which hinder the political process to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Western Sahara conflict.
European countries that expressed support for Morocco’s peaceful approach to the conflict include Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark, France, and the Czech Republic.