UN-Sahara: After Guerguarate, will the Polisario be ordered to leave other buffer zones?

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted on Friday a new resolution on the Sahara, just hours after the Polisario withdrew from the buffer zone of Guerguarate, a locality at the Morocco-Mauritania border.

Following the announcement of the in-extremis withdrawal of the Polisario from Gueguarate, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed resolution 2351, which extends the MINURSO mandate for one year, and urges neighboring countries to contribute to the political settlement process of the Sahara conflict.

For Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, the “liberated territory” myth put forward by the Polisario to justify its presence in the buffer zones of the Moroccan Sahara is a mere “lexicon and gesticulations contrary to international legality and Security Council resolutions”.

The buffer zones demilitarized following the ceasefire agreement signed in 1991 under the auspices of the UN have been occupied by the Polisario, which started claiming they were “liberated territories”.

The Sahrawi separatist Front took advantage of Morocco’s restraint and of the MINURSO’s limited logistical and human resources to impose a fait accompli, although the cease-fire agreement stipulates that it is up to the UN mission to exercise exclusive control over the “buffer zones” in Western Sahara.

Lately, after it suffered a series of setbacks on the continental and international diplomatic chessboard, the Polisario was encouraged by its Algerian mentors to position its militiamen in Gueguarate, the only buffer area at the border between Morocco and Mauritania.

The undeclared purpose of this Algeria-backed maneuver was precisely to disrupt the traffic of goods between Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa and consequently undermine Morocco’s influence in this sub-region.

Yet, despite the malevolent manoeuvers by Algerian leaders, inciting the Polisario to escalate tension in Guerguarate, Morocco avoided falling into the Algerian trap. Algeria was seeking to fuel a new tension between Rabat and the UN especially following the appointment at the helm of the UN of former Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, a fine connoisseur of the genesis of the Western Sahara conflict.

After the Guerguarate episode, the big question then is whether the UN will exact the withdrawal of the Polisario from the other demilitarized zones in order to facilitate a fresh start for negotiations on a sound and firm basis.