Morocco’s king warns Polisario after rivals clash in W.Sahara

Morocco’s king warns Polisario after rivals clash in W.Sahara
Tents used by the Polisario Front ablaze near the Mauritanian border in Guerguerat located in the Western Sahara, along the road leading to Mauritania, after the intervention of the royal Moroccan armed forces on Nov. 13, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 November 2020

Morocco’s king warns Polisario after rivals clash in W.Sahara

Morocco’s king warns Polisario after rivals clash in W.Sahara
  • The United Nations said that both sides had exchanged fire
  • Moroccan King Mohammed VI said Rabat remained committed to a cease-fire

RABAT: Morocco’s king warned Monday that his country would react with the “greatest severity” to any attack in Western Sahara, as the pro-independence Polisario Front said conflict would continue until Rabat ended its “occupation” of the disputed territory.
The United Nations said that both sides had exchanged fire, and urged restraint.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI, speaking after a telephone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Rabat remained committed to a cease-fire.
But Morocco also “remains firmly determined to react, with the greatest severity, and in self-defense, against any threat to its security,” the king said, quoted in an official statement.
The crisis erupted after Morocco launched a military operation Friday to reopen a key highway at the Guerguerat border crossing between the territory and Mauritania.
It accused the Polisario of blocking the highway, which is key to trade with the rest of Africa.
The Algerian-backed Polisario, which does not recognize the existence of the highway, responded by declaring the end of an almost three-decade UN-supervised cease-fire in Western Sahara.
“The end of the war is now linked to the end of the illegal occupation of parts of the territory of the Sahrawi Republic,” senior Polisario official Mohamed Salem Ould Salek said on Monday.
“The war only started as a consequence of Morocco’s aggression and action in Guerguerat,” said Ould Salek, who is foreign minister of the Polisario-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
He also downplayed the importance of the highway, where trucks had been blocked for weeks. Traffic resumed on Saturday between Mauritania and Morocco, the two countries have said.
“It is not an international or even regional road. It is being used to loot the natural resources of the Sahrawi people,” Ould Salek said, accusing Morocco of having started the latest conflict.
Rabat controls around three quarters of the Western Sahara, a vast swathe of desert on the Atlantic coast, including its phosphate deposits and its lucrative ocean fisheries. The Polisario controls the remainder.
Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom and has offered autonomy for the disputed territory, but insists it will retain sovereignty.
Ould Salek said a full implementation of the 1991 cease-fire — namely organizing the self-determination referendum set out in the truce deal — -- was a condition for an end to hostilities.
The vote has been repeatedly postponed due to disputes between Rabat and the Polisario over voter rolls and the question to be put on the ballot.
The Moroccan official news agency MAP said late Sunday that Rabat’s military had responded to fire by the Polisario Front along a UN-patrolled buffer zone.
“Since 13 November 2020, Polisario militias have fired provocative shots along the line of defense without causing human or material damage,” MAP said, citing the Far-Maroc unofficial website dedicated to military news.
Retaliatory fire from the Moroccans destroyed an armored vehicle east of the line of defense at El Mahbes, it said on its Facebook page.
The UN on Monday confirmed an exchange of fire.
The MINURSO mission “received reports by both sides of incidents of shooting” overnight Sunday to Monday “at various locations” in the territory, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN chief, told reporters in New York.
MINURSO, he said, calls on both sides to “exercise restraint” and take measures to defuse tensions.
On Sunday, the Polisario reported intense fighting along the 2,700-kilometer (1,700-mile) Moroccan wall of defense that cuts through Western Sahara.
It also announced that it was mobilizing “thousands of volunteers” to join Polisario Front fighters.
The territory is tough to travel through and Moroccan authorities do not allow journalists access, making it difficult to verify reports from either side.
Domestic flights are also suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Negotiations involving Morocco, Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have been at a standstill since 2019.


UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League

UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League
Updated 7 min 9 sec ago

UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League

UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League
  • Call for council members to unite behind Arab causes, and consider the views and concerns of the peoples of the region
  • States that are most susceptible to Iran’s malign regional behavior should not have to face it alone, says US envoy

NEW YORK: The problems that continue to plague the Arab world were top of the agenda for the UN Security Council on Monday, as it considered ways in which cooperation with the League of Arab states might be enhanced.
Members discussed the protracted conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, and the stalled Middle East peace process, as they agreed that multilateralism and cooperation are key requirements for peace.
Tunisia holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, and the meeting was convened at the request of Tarek Ladeb, the country’s permanent representative to the UN. His invitation stressed the need for a more effective partnership between the UN and the Arab League, and evoked Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, which sets out the role of regional organizations in efforts to maintain peace and security.
Both organizations were established in 1945 with the purpose of guaranteeing international peace and security. Cooperation between the two has grown over the years to encompass many aspects of this, such as conflict prevention and resolution, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, human rights and humanitarian aid, refugees, human and political development, countering terrorism, the prevention of violent extremism, and sustaining peace and disarmament. More recently they have addressed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and in 2019 a liaison office was established by the organizations in Cairo.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, called on the Security Council to unite behind Arab causes, and urged the permanent members to limit their use of the power of veto. He also asked the council to take into consideration the views and concerns of Arabs about conflicts in the Middle East, by helping to prevent external interference in Arab affairs, protecting the region from weapons of mass destruction, and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Ahmed Abul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, told the council that the “dangerous mix” of the pandemic and continuing conflicts has taken a heavy toll on the region. He also said that a two-state solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which appears more elusive than ever, must be reaffirmed.
“We look forward to the new American administration rectifying policies and procedures that are not useful, and engaging in a fruitful political process with the support of influential regional and international parties,” he said.
“This would give the Palestinian people renewed hope that the international community will stand by its side in its noble aspiration to achieve freedom and independence.”
Abul Gheit also condemned “regional powers” for their continued interference in the affairs of Arab nations.
“It has become apparent to all that this interference has destabilized the region as a whole,” he said. “It has adversely affected the security of international maritime-navigation routes, which are a lifeline for international trade.
“It has also become apparent that this interference perpetuates existing conflicts and further complicates them. In Syria, five countries are interfering militarily in an apparent way. The security situation remains tumultuous and precarious, especially in the northwest, northeast and in the south.”
Rosemary DiCarlo, the under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated strains on the multilateral system, just as the need for solidarity and cooperation has never been more critical.”
She thanked the Arab League for its engagement with peacekeeping efforts in a number of protracted conflicts. This includes support for the UN’s envoy to Syria and the Syrian Constitutional Committee, upholding the international consensus on the two-state solution, its active role in brokering the Oct. 23 ceasefire in Libya, and its support for Sudan’s transition to democracy.
In Yemen the support of the league and key member states is crucial, she added, to the implementation of “the world’s largest aid operation, and urgently address the growing risk of famine before it is too late.”
DiCarlo expressed hope that this month’s AlUla Declaration, an agreement by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to mend relations with Qatar, will help to enhance regional security and prosperity. She called for restraint in the region and dialogue to ease tensions.
Rodney Hunter, the political coordinator for the US mission to the UN, commended “our friends and allies in the (Arab League) for standing firm against re-admitting (President Bashar) Assad’s Syria, and not normalizing relations until an inclusive political process is underway (in the country).”
He added: “There will be no foreign reconstruction assistance until the (Syrian) regime has fully committed to a political solution that is outlined in Security Council Resolution 2254.”
Regarding Iran, Hunter said that the regime in Tehran “remains the most significant threat to regional peace and security, engaged in malign activity across the region from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia.”
Iran-backed militias in Iraq “routinely engage in a statewide theft of Iraqi state resources, conduct targeted killings and stoke sectarian violence,” he added, vowing that the US will continue to “aggressively press the Iranian regime to end its role in this conflict and curtail its support for terrorist groups and militias.”
He said: “Individually, states are susceptible to Iran’s coercion, intimidation and malign behavior — and these states should not have to go it alone.”
Hunter also commended the Arab nations that have normalized relations with Israel in recent months and called for others to follow suit. Speaking on the day of the annual US commemoration of the life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Hunter quoted the renowned civil rights leader, saying: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Vassily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, said: “The Russian concept of security in the Persian Gulf is an invitation to dialogue.” In a clear jab at the US, he added: “This is an invitation to peace, in counterbalance to an invitation to war.”
He called for an end to what he described as “the arms race and weapon display” and then he, too, evoked the memory of Martin Luther King, highlighting “a quote which apparently (the Americans) do not like: ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.’”