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Guerguerat : UN Secretary General stated that regular commercial traffic should not be obstructed
Following the Moroccan Sovereign King Mohammed VI’s telephone talk with the UNSG, Guterres has pointed out in a statement released by his spokesman that “regular commercial traffic should not be obstructed and that no action should be taken, which may constitute a change to the status quo of the Buffer Strip.”
The UN Secretary General also stressed the need to uphold the letter and spirit of the ceasefire agreement and to withdraw armed elements from the buffer zone.
The statement clarified that “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the increased tensions in the vicinity of Guerguerat in the Buffer Strip in southern Western Sahara between the Moroccan berm and the Mauritanian border. Armed elements of both Morocco and Frente Polisario remain in close proximity to each other, a position they have been in since August 2016, monitored during daylight hours by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
The Secretary-General calls on both of the parties to exercise maximum restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid escalating tensions, be that through the actions of military or civilian actors. He also underlines that regular commercial traffic should not be obstructed and that no action should be taken, which may constitute a change to the status quo of the Buffer Strip.
The Secretary-General strongly urges the parties to unconditionally withdraw all armed elements from the Buffer Strip as soon as possible, to create an environment conducive to a resumption of the dialogue in the context of the political process led by the United Nations. He further calls on the parties to adhere to their obligations under the ceasefire agreement and to respect both the letter and the spirit of it.”
Tension started building up in the region last August when Morocco launched an anti-smuggling operation that has a police character to clear the southernmost tip of the Saharan provinces of all sorts of illegal commercial activities. Moroccan authorities also started asphalting a road to better monitor the area and bar traffickers and terrorist groups from setting up a safe haven in the buffer zone beyond Morocco’s security berm on the borders with Mauritania.
The Polisario tried to portray Morocco’s security operation as a breach of the ceasefire, but the UN mission to the Sahara, MINURSO, refuted the separatists’ claims saying that the Morocco-led anti-smuggling operation in Guerguarat had a police character and was undertaken in coordination with the UN.
Morocco’s concerns about growing illegal commercial activities with the involvement of terrorist groups were vindicated by the busting of several drug and arms trafficking networks comprising Polisario members.