The UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday warned the Polisario separatists against obstructing regular civil and commercial traffic in the Guerguerat buffer zone, in reaction to the front’s recent moves in the town on the Morocco-Mauritania border.
In a statement on behalf of UN Chief, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said that the UN has received information pointing to Polisario-sponsored movements in the buffer zone, especially in Guerguerat, disturbing traffic at the border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania.
The United Nations is “aware of the calls” by the Polisario and its thugs for staging “new demonstrations” in Guerguerat buffer zone to obstruct civil and commercial traffic, at the border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania, said Farhan Haq.
“Regular civil and commercial traffic shall not be obstructed and no action shall be taken that might constitute an alteration of the status quo in the buffer zone,” said the deputy spokesperson.
In an additional cautionary note to the Polisario Front, the UN spokesperson also underlined that it would be in the Front’s interest to restrain from escalating tensions in Guerguerat and elsewhere in the buffer strip.
Recalling that the buffer zone is under strict and constant surveillance by MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, the UN spokesperson urged the separatist front to show restraint and immediately leave the zone.
He also urged all parties to the Sahara conflict to show “the utmost restraint and to de-escalate any tension” in Guerguerat, noting that MINURSO “is monitoring the situation” in the region.
The UN’s warning comes after reports in the Mauritanian press spoke of “unprecedented movements of the Polisario towards the northern border of Mauritania,” between Friday evening and Saturday, September 26.
According to anbaa.info news website, the Polisario has already premeditated a plan, which it intends to carry out in the coming few days, to permanently block commercial traffic through Guerguerat crossing point.
So-called civilians aboard a convoy of several vehicles would reportedly organize a sit-in at the buffer zone. The objective of these “very special envoys” from Algeria to Guerguerat would be to demand (from whom?) the closure of the Moroccan-Mauritanian border.
Another Mauritanian news outlet, elwiam.info, commented Saturday that without “the encouragement and support of the Algerian government, which manipulates the separatists with the sole aim of attacking the interests of Morocco, the Polisario would never have been able to prepare alone an act as serious as that of blocking the road linking Morocco and Mauritania, in violation of the 1991 ceasefire.”
“If this act seems to target Morocco, it is in reality and primarily directed against the vital interests of Mauritania,” the media underlined. Actually, the dependence of the Mauritanian market on fruits and vegetables especially, imported from the neighbor to the North, can not suffer any obstruction, it explained, describing the move as “a dangerous challenge to Mauritanian authorities, and to Mauritania’s sovereignty and food security.”
As a reminder, in addition to imports from Morocco which allow it to supply its markets and create many jobs, Mauritania also exports, via Morocco, large shipments of frozen fish to European markets.
In a related development, several Moroccan media outlets reported that General Abdelfettah Louarak, the Inspector General of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces (FAR), is currently visiting the buffer area to assess the situation and prepare an eventual Moroccan response to “continued separatist provocations.”
As it happens, this is not the first time that the UN has cautioned Polisario against defying the status quo in the buffer zone.
In January this year, the UN chief stressed the need not to obstruct regular civil and commercial traffic in Guerguerat and called for refraining from any action likely to alter the status quo in this buffer zone. The Polisario had then threatened to obstruct the passage of the “Africa Eco Race” rally between Morocco and Mauritania.