The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has warned the Polisario of obstructing commercial traffic flow between Morocco and Mauritania, after the Algerian-sponsored separatist group deployed militiamen in an area that is supposed to remain demilitarized under the UN brokered 1991 ceasefire agreement.
“Regular civilian and commercial traffic should not be obstructed and no action should be taken, which may constitute a change to the status quo of the Buffer Strip,” Guterres said in a statement relayed by his Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about recent increased tensions in the vicinity of Guerguarat in the Buffer Strip in southern Western Sahara between the Moroccan berm and the Mauritanian border,” Guterres said.
The Secretary-General underlines the need for a withdrawal of Polisario armed men from Guerguarat in order to create an environment conducive to the resumption of dialogue under the auspices of his Personal Envoy Horst Kohler.
“The Secretary-General calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid escalating tensions,” he said.
On January 3, Polisario sent its militiamen to the Guerguarat border crossing where they barred the road to participants in a desert rally departing from Dakhla and bound for Nouakchott.
Last April, Morocco’s restraint and its conditioning of the relaunch of the peace process with the retreat of the Polisario militia from the demilitarized border crossing earned the North African Kingdom a diplomatic victory as the Polisario, now more than ever, is seen by the international community as a source of instability in the region.