Sahara-UN: Security Council forces Polisario to withdraw from Guerguerat

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday extended the mandate of the MINURSO until 30 April 2018 after it forced the Polisario to withdraw its armed militiamen from Guerguerat, the buffer zone at the Moroccan-Mauritanian border.

Furthermore, the resolution (S/RES/2351; 2017), adopted unanimously by the Security Council fifteen members, takes note of the Moroccan proposal presented to the UN Secretary-General on 11 April 2007 and welcomes the serious and credible efforts deployed by Morocco to push forward the process aimed at a settlement of the Sahara conflict.

Morocco’s position is thus strengthened since its autonomy plan for the Sahara is put again on the table of future talks as a serious and credible solution “allowing the populations of the Sahara to live in dignity”, as stressed by Nikki Haley, the United States Permanent Representative to the UN.

The Council reiterated its call on “the parties and neighboring States to cooperate more fully with the United Nations and with each other and to consolidate their commitment to put an end to the current deadlock and to achieve progress towards a political solution” and thus contribute” to stability and security in the Sahel region”.

The Polisario did not react to the new resolution, but its “official” mouthpiece, the Algerian press agency “APS”, announced that “the Polisario Front has decided Friday the redeployment of elements of its armed forces in the buffer zone of Guerguerat, in response to the call of several friendly countries”.

APS went on to say that “the Sahrawi side informed the Security Council of its decision in a letter addressed to its president, the American Nikki Haley”.

However, the Algerian agency spoke only of a “redeployment” and not of a withdrawal, a detail that prompted Morocco’s Permanent Representation to the UN to send a letter to the Security Council, drawing attention to the fact that a “redeployment” is not a withdrawal.

Immediately afterwards, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric made it clear that this is indeed a “withdrawal” of all Polisario elements from the Guerguerat area, between the berm and the border with Mauritania, and not a mere redeployment as stated in the APS dispatch. Actually, APS was desperately attempting to mitigate the extent of the defeat of Algerian diplomacy and its protégé, the Polisario.

This defeat is aggravated by the renewed demand of the Security Council, calling for the “registration” of the populations in the Tindouf camps, and insisting that “efforts need to be made in this respect”. UN concerned agencies and Morocco have repeatedly called for the holding of a census of the camps populations, but the Polisario and Algeria, as the camps host country, have always turned down the calls.

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