Morocco and the Polisario Front discuss the clashes in Guerguerat on CNN
During yesterday’s British program International Connect the World on CNN, Rebecca Anderson interviewed the various permanent representatives of the United Nations both from Morocco, Omar hilale, like the Polisario Front, Sidi Omar.
On Friday, November 6, coinciding with the 45th anniversary of the Green March, Sahrawi protesters blocked the passage between Morocco and Mauritania in the demilitarized zone of Guerguerat, considered part of the liberated territory of Western Sahara.
These types of demonstrations are repeated annually throughout these dates to remind the Alawite Kingdom and the international community that the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front has not yet been resolved.
The Polisario Front wants to remind that, despite the fact that Morocco administers the calls “Southern provinces”, there are more than 170,000 refugees awaiting a diplomatic solution in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria.
This conflict is being monitored by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which since 2010, after Morocco’s refusal to accept any census for voting, has been monitoring respect for human rights within of the provinces controlled by Morocco.
During this year 2020, the demonstrations have gone further. The cut off of the highway prevented the commercial movement of trucks from Morocco to Mauritania and vice versa. Thus, Morocco mobilized its army towards Gueguerat to clear the area of protesters. This has been considered by the Polisario Front as a break from the ceasefire signed in 1991 and, since then, the Sahrawi army has been attacking different Moroccan defense positions.
Three decades of conflict
The requests of the Polisario Front remain the same as 29 years ago: to hold a referendum of self-determination for the Saharawi people. Yesterday, in the CNN interview, the Moroccan representative to the UN, Omar Hilale, stated that “the Western Sahara self-determination referendum has been dead and buried for many years and there is no way to relive death ”.
From New York, Hilale recalled that MINURSO itself has made two calls to the Polisario Front to ask them to stop the confrontations: “from the United Nations they have asked them to stop the offensive, to clear Guerguerat and to maintain the status of ‘demilitarized zone ‘of this area ”.
For now, Morocco is waiting for the Polisario Front to heed the UN, “Morocco has decided not to respond to the Polisario Front fire throughout these ten days of confrontation because it’s time for diplomacy“We are going to wait for the Polisario Front to heed the two calls made by the United Nations”, Hilale explained to the British journalist after confirming that no civilians had been injured.
On the other hand, the representative of the Polisario Front at the United Nations, Sidi Omar, explained in another interview for CNN that “we have been trying for 45 years to pressure Morocco to sit down and negotiate with us. Ending the ceasefire was the only option to call them to sit at the table and revert to the issue of the referendum ”, the Saharawi representative stressed.
Since the ceasefire in 1991, the Saharawi people and the Polisario Front have advocated through diplomatic channels. But since 2008, when the hope of holding a referendum began to fade, the rumors and comments of a return to the armed confrontation have been growing stronger.
“We have been waiting for the referendum for almost 30 years, we have maintained a peaceful position against the Moroccan occupation and we no longer have any other options. We want Morocco to stop occupying our territory and leave us free to develop our country, Western Sahara, ”Omar reiterated.
Stop the fire
In response to these statements, the Moroccan representative to the UN has accused the Polisario Front of constantly creating propaganda. In principle, for Morocco, the ceasefire has not been broken. “You will not find any statement by Morocco that considers that the ceasefire has been broken, the Polisario Front has to abide by the political process sponsored by the United Nations,” Hilale explained to CNN.
“What is the political solution that Morocco offers to this conflict?” Anderson asked just after the Moroccan representative’s refusal to accept armed confrontations. “There is only one political solution: the autonomy of the Sahara as part of Morocco. This solution was proposed in 2008 as a serious resolution and has been discussed on the table several times ”, Hilale replied.
But this possibility has not been accepted by the Polisario Front, which wants to form its own state independent of Morocco. “Outside of this political possibility there is nothing”Halali reiterates. “When one of the parties breaks the ceasefire and starts shooting, it no longer has a place at the negotiating table,” insists the Moroccan representative.
Finally speaking of the king Mohamed VIHalali has recognized that “Morocco will resume military operations in the buffer zone to respond to the Polisario Front”, but its intentions are to resume the political process, as the Alawite monarch has reiterated on numerous occasions for two weeks. “We will not go to war, but we will defend our civilians and our territory”, The Moroccan representative concluded.
The war in Western Sahara was unleashed when in 1975 Spain withdrew from the territory as a colonizing power. At first, the administration of the territory was to be for the Saharawi people, following in the steps of the decolonization processes that had taken place throughout the African continent.
But the Spanish Government, faced with the rejection of the Sahrawi independence movements that had attacked the administration during the last years of colonization, made a pact with Morocco and Mauritania to divide the territory and cede space to these neighboring countries. This pact is known as the Tripartite Agreements of Madrid.
The news of the distribution of Western Sahara did not like the Polisario Front that started a war against Morocco and Mauritania in 1975. The Mauritanian neighbor to the south withdrew in 1979 and Morocco and the Polisario Front ended up signing a ceasefire in 1991. By then, Morocco had built a wall of more than 2,700 kilometers that divided the war front in two.
Since then both parties have sat down to negotiate a peaceful resolution. The talks have been stalled as Morocco refuses to hold a self-determination referendum and the Polisario Front does not accept the idea of being a Moroccan autonomy.
Spain, a former colonizing power in the territory, has left in the hands of the United Nations any type of resolution that can be carried out, although the Polisario Front does not tire of repeating that “in the eyes of international legislation, Spain remains the administering power of Western Sahara now occupied by Morocco”.
The Foreign Minister Arantxa González Laya he has repeated these weeks to the media that the United Nations will be in charge of putting an end to this conflict and that Spain has little to say in all this matter.
Meanwhile 45 years have passed in which the international community mainly supports Morocco, which has great commercial and defense influence in the Sahel area that connects with Europe through the Mediterranean.