UN chief committed to avoid collapse of ceasefire in Sahara

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has reiterated his commitment to doing his utmost to avoid the collapse of the long-term ceasefire in Western Sahara.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN chief, told reporters at the regular noon briefing that the secretary-general “remains committed to doing his utmost to avoid the collapse of the ceasefire that has been in place since Sept. 6, 1991 and he is determined to do everything possible to remove all obstacles to the resumption of the political process.”

The spokesman said that “in recent days, the United Nations, including the secretary-general, has been involved in multiple initiatives” to avoid an escalation of the situation in the Buffer Strip in the Guerguerat area and to warn against violations of the ceasefire and of the serious consequences of any changes to the status quo.”

Dujarric noted that the secretary-general “regrets that these efforts have proved unsuccessful and expresses his grave concern regarding the possible consequences of the latest developments.”

“The UN mission, MINURSO, is committed to continuing implementing its mandate and the secretary-general calls on the parties to provide full freedom of movement for MINURSO in accordance with its mandate,” said the spokesman.

Western Sahara was partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania at the end of Spain’s colonial rule in 1976. When Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979, Morocco moved to occupy that sector and has since asserted administrative control over the whole territory. Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara.

A ceasefire was signed in 1991. MINURSO was deployed that year to monitor the ceasefire and to organize, if possible, a referendum on self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.