Morocco is considering “all options” if the United Nations does not address accusations the Polisario independence movement is threatening a 1991 ceasefire in the Western Sahara conflict, the foreign minister said.
Morocco claimed Western Sahara after colonial Spain left, but Polisario fought a guerrilla war for independence for the Sahrawi people until a UN-backed ceasefire, monitored by UN peacekeepers, came into being. The UN Security Council is due to renew the annual mandate for the peacekeeping mission later this month.
The region has effectively been split by an earthen wall separating an area controlled by Morocco it claims as its southern provinces and territory controlled by the Polisario with a UN-mandated buffer zone in between.
Morocco Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday to complain that Polisario forces entered the buffer zone and were building structures.
Bourita said he provided evidence to Guterres. He told reporters afterwards “the UN should react to any threat to the ceasefire” and “today there is a real and serious threat to that ceasefire.”
“Morocco is saying clearly all options are under consideration,” Bourita said. “If the UN, if the international community, don’t take their responsibilities, Morocco will take its own responsibility.”
In a letter to the UN Security Council, the Polisario rejected the “utterly unfounded and false allegations” made by Morocco.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN peacekeepers “have not observed any movement of military elements in the north-east territory” and are monitoring the situation closely.
UN talks have long failed to broker an agreement on self-determination. Morocco wants an autonomy plan under Moroccan sovereignty. Polisario wants a UN-backed referendum including the question of independence.
Tensions increased in Western Sahara in 2016 when Moroccan forces faced off with a brigade of Polisario forces in the remote Guerguerat area. Both sides withdrew their forces last year.
Relations between Morocco and the UN hit a low in 2016 after then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara. Morocco expelled dozens of UN staff working for the MINURSO mission.