African Reserves

Algeria urges Morocco to leave Western Sahara buffer zone

Algeria, the main supporter of the Polisario Front independence movement in Western Sahara, on Thursday called on Morocco to withdraw from a key buffer zone, after the UN appointed a new envoy.

The UN on Wednesday appointed veteran diplomat Staffan de Mistura as a point of reference on the decades-old conflict, a post that had gone vacant for nearly two and a half years as the Polisario and Morocco rejected a dozen or so. other candidates.

The Algerian foreign ministry noted “with interest” Mistura’s appointment, and called for the withdrawal of Moroccan troops deployed at the end of last year in the region of Guerguerat, in the extreme south of the territory.

They had been sent to reopen a key highway leading to Mauritania after it was blocked by Sahrawi militants who see it as a violation of a 1991 ceasefire agreement.

The “demilitarization of this area (…) is the cornerstone of any credible political process aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict,” said the Algerian ministry.

He said Algeria supported the UN peace efforts and expressed hope that De Mistura could “relaunch direct and serious negotiations between the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco in order to reach a solution ensuring that the Saharawi people can freely and authentically exercise their inalienable right to autonomy “. determination.”

The UN considers Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, as a “non-autonomous territory”, but Morocco considers it as an integral part of its territory and insists that its claim of sovereignty be recognized in any peace agreement.

The kingdom controls some 80 percent of the largely desert territory, which has mineral reserves and access to rich Atlantic fisheries, as well as a potentially strategic trade route connecting Morocco to the African markets of the Where is.

Rabat proposed an autonomy plan but the Polisario insisted on a referendum on independence as provided for in the 1990 ceasefire agreement.

Morocco’s strained relations with Algeria have deteriorated since Rabat last year won Washington’s recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for normalizing relations with Israel.

Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco on August 24, accusing it of “hostile actions”, including using Israeli technology to spy on its officials, Morocco rejected.

A month later, he banned Moroccan planes from his skies.

amb / ezz / by / kir

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