RABAT – Morocco decided to take action against what it called unacceptable provocations of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front militias in the buffer zone of Guerguerate, a buffer zone in the southwest near the Mauritanian border, said the foreign ministry Friday in a statement.
“Faced with the serious and unacceptable provocations of the “Polisario” militias in the buffer zone of Guergarate in the Moroccan Sahara, Morocco has decided to act, in accordance with its attributions, its duties and in full compliance with international legality," said the ministry.
The Polisario militiamen have been in the buffer zone since October 21, harassing UN peacekeepers (MINURSO) and blocking the movement of people and goods despite the UN’s repeated calls to evacuate Guerguerat.
The separatists have violated since 2016 several UN Security Council resolutions that called for an end to their destabilizing acts in the buffer zone and their withdrawal.
Last week, about 200 Moroccan truck drivers issued a distress call to Rabat and Nouakchott, saying that they were stuck at the Guerguerat crossing, an area in a buffer zone in the southwest near the Mauritanian border.
The drivers said that they were stuck on the Mauritanian side after “militias affiliated with the separatists” prevented them from crossing the Guerguerat area while they were returning through the land border with Mauritania.
“After having committed itself to the greatest restraint, in the face of provocations from the militias of the Polisario, the Kingdom of Morocco had no other choice but to assume its responsibilities in order to put an end to the deadlock situation generated by these actions and restore free civil and commercial movement,” the ministry said.
Rabat warned that the Polisario separatists’ documented actions constituted real premeditated acts of destabilization, which alter the status of the area, violate military agreements and represent a real threat to the sustainability of the ceasefire.
“These acts undermine the chances of any relaunch of the political process sought by the international community, the ministry said.
The ministry said that Morocco had decided to act “in accordance with its attributions and its duties and in full compliance with international legality” following unsuccessful calls for MINURSO and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to intervene.
“The Polisario alone assumes full responsibility and the full consequences of these acts,” said the ministry.
Morocco’s army set up on Thursday night a security cordon to secure the flow of goods and people across buffer zone, a statement from the General Staff of the Royal Armed Forces said on Friday.
“Following the blocking by about sixty people supervised by armed militiamen of the Polisario of the road axis crossing the buffer zone of Guerguerat connecting the Kingdom of Morocco and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, and the prohibition of the right of passage, the Royal Armed Forces are setting up a security cordon in order to secure the flow of goods and people through this axis,” said the statement.
“This non-offensive operation and without any bellicose intent is taking place according to clear rules of engagement, requiring to avoid any contact with civilians and to resort to the use of arms only in case of self-defense", it added.
The Polisario Front warned Monday it will end the ceasefire agreement with Rabat and wage a new war in the region if Morocco sends troops or civilians to the buffer zone.
Mauritania’s army has reinforced its positions along the border with Morocco, where some 200 Moroccan truck drivers have been prevented by the Polisario Front separatists from crossing the border in Guerguerat, a high-ranking local official said Wednesday.
Morocco started supplying Mauritanian markets with vegetables and fruits by sea following the Polisario’s blockade.
Kan Hamidou Baba, the leader of the Movement for Refoundation (MPR) and former 2019 presidential candidate, slammed the blockade “unacceptable” in a press conference.
“The blockade is an attempt to stifle the Mauritanian economy and the economy of neighbouring countries,” said Baba.