While the Polisario declared via the Algerian press to prepare for war, the UN reported exchanges of fire between the Polisario and the Royal Armed Forces during the night from Monday to Tuesday. Between propaganda and fake news from the Polisario who tries as best they can to blame Morocco, Dr. Yasmine Hasnaoui, expert in the question of the Sahara and Maghreb Affairs, explains the potential impact of these provocations by the Polisario on the table of negotiations as well as the evolution of the dossier within the UN.
DIPLOMATIC MOROCCO: What is your reading of the current events in El Guergarat?
Yasmine Hasnaoui : The intervention of Morocco is normal and legitimate! If Morocco and the Royal Armed Forces are attacked, they will not sit back! Morocco has all its international legitimacy to defend its territory. Moreover, let us recall that the buffer zone was delegated by Morocco to MINURSO during military agreement number 1, so that the latter supervises the ceasefire. So, if the Polisario militias attack this area, Morocco will respond while respecting international law, that falls within its remit. In addition, Morocco has all the support from the international community following this response. Unfortunately on the other side, there has been a monster spread of fake-news through the Algerian press which shows old photos, videos, while there has been no human damage! What there was was material damage from members of the Polisario, who lit fire in the tents before fleeing Mahbes and Guergarat, and who also provoked the FAR and Minurso, with jets. stones on their helicopters. The FAR nevertheless started this operation without no belligerent intent. But the Polisario still claims to have demonstrated peacefully, although videos and photos show the opposite. There is nothing peaceful about this behavior, it is harassment and everyone now knows who the real provocateur is.
MD: How has the question / status of the Sahara at the UN evolved over the years?
Y.H : Since the self-determination referendum is no longer in the annals or in the resolutions of the Security Council, the UN has paved the way for another form of self-determination, that is to say finding a pragmatic solution based on on compromise. Morocco concretely adhered to it in 2007 by putting on the table its initiative for negotiating an autonomy statute for the Sahara. It is not only Morocco’s position, but also that of the Security Council, the Secretary General and the entire international community. In addition, none of the last 34 resolutions since 2001 mentions or makes the slightest reference to the referendum, contrary to what the Polisario is propagating with the help of Algeria. The UN General Assembly has definitely abandoned the idea of a referendum for 18 years. The evolution of the Sahara issue at the UN has also gained significant momentum following the holding of round tables in Geneva chaired by the former special envoy to the UN SG, Mr. Horst Köhler, who called on the four parties concerned to find a political solution to this conflict.
MD: What is Algeria doing in the meantime?
Y.H : Since 2007, the Security Council has highlighted the absence of Algeria for the resolution of this conflict. On several occasions he called for more involvement in the negotiation process, it is a questioning of a role that everyone recognizes in him. It has been in the genesis of this dispute since 1963 and even more with the second President Boumediene, who contested Morocco’s action to reintegrate the southern provinces in 1975. Moreover, it is cited more than five times in the resolutions ! She is also called to take the census in the Tindouf camps, because it is the only camp where we do not know how many people are. Thus, Algeria has an essential role and influence on the Polisario which they use as puppets. It is also its financial, logistical and political support.
Now look with what is going on in Guergarat, it is opening the Tindouf camps and pushing people to cross minefields and borders to get to a buffer zone. It puts their lives in danger, all to harass civilians and peacekeepers, and destroy a road that serves only the flow of trade. Such provocations are unacceptable in a period of a pandemic, during which people have lost their jobs and where the sale of fruit and vegetables is also experiencing a crisis. All this is to seriously endanger the stability of the region.
MD: Can you remind us of the resolutions that were in favor of Morocco?
Y.H : The Guergarat incident came about as a result of the latest UN resolutions and the Secretary General’s latest report which supports a pragmatic political solution based on compromise. Thus, resolutions 24-40, 24-68, 24-94 and 24-48, since 2007, align with the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco and that many countries consider as a credible solution to this conflict which has been going on for over 45 years.
MD: Are these resolutions the trigger for these provocations?
Y.H : This legitimacy given to Morocco displeased the Polisario and Algeria, which decided to challenge the international community by blocking the passage of Guergarat, by sending women, children and the elderly from Tindouf, framed by the Polisario militias to destroy the road connecting the Moroccan border with Mauritania. The Polisario had been present in this buffer zone since October 21, its members harassed the peacekeepers despite calls from the UN. Morocco has also alerted the UN Secretary General on several occasions to these serious developments, and to the Polisario’s violation of military resolutions and agreements. After a long detention, he had no choice but to end this impasse to restore the civil liberty of the trade movement.
MD: Which countries support Morocco within the Security Council?
Y.H : Many countries are supporting us, thanks to the action of our civil society and Moroccan diplomacy. Moreover, the language has changed a lot in the resolutions. For example, Russia, which was generally against Morocco through its votes, has moved to a more neutral position and abstains. This thanks to the actions of Morocco with the Russian counterparts. Relations are therefore in good shape, a change is taking place, and most of the Security Council countries are in favor of a pragmatic solution based on compromise. Moreover, most also point the finger at Algeria which should become more involved. Finally, more than 80% of UN member states align with Morocco’s proposal. This shows that this is an artificial conflict that was resolved in 1975 when Morocco joined its southern provinces after Spain left. Now the Security Council and the international community must meet as soon as possible to condemn these acts and send clear messages to Algeria, which must stop these provocations.
MD: His Majesty King Mohammed Vi met a few days ago with the Secretary General of the UN. What do you think is the scope of this exchange?
Y.H : First of all, recall that Morocco did not defend itself at the first opportunity, and that it reminded the UN on several occasions of the violations of the Polisario in the buffer zone and of military agreement number 1. It There have been condemnations of Guterres so that the Polisario leaves these buffer zones, but no real action by Minurso. So Morocco legitimately left to reply and defend its territorial integrity. The Kingdom aligns itself with the Security Council, but within the framework of respect for territorial integrity. So I think this exchange was aimed at making this reminder and that it was going in the right direction.
MD: What consequences could the current actions of the Polisario have on the negotiating table?
Y.H : These actions already represent the energy of the despair of the Polisario which is experiencing a humanitarian and social crisis in the Tindouf camps. The young Sahrawis are against the leadership of the Polisario, against the Algerian generals of the National People’s Army who keep telling them to be patient. These young Sahrawis sequestered in these camps are aware of the reality, many demonstrations took place in Tindouf against the leadership of the Polisario. But the latter continue to lock them in these camps to enrich themselves to the detriment of these families, in particular through the diversion of humanitarian aid and the few petrodollars of the Algerian regime. All this, while 73% of the Sahrawi population lives in Morocco and militates within national political parties and has participated since 1976 in all the elections which take place in Morocco in order to appoint the representative in parliament. The Polisario, meanwhile, has never recorded the slightest development and continues to impose its dictatorship in the Lahmada and Tindouf camps, under the orders of the Algerian regime.
In addition, let us remember that several members of the Polisario are linked to armed terrorist groups that represent a threat to the region. The international community must be aware that this file, even if it is an artificial dispute which has grown, must now be taken seriously, because it involves a problem of terrorism. It must also be aware of what these camps represent, at a time when Morocco becomes an important partner for many countries, within the framework of a win-win collaboration. The United Nations must put an end to this artificial conflict which will lead nowhere, which only represents a danger for an entire region and hinders the partnership with Africa.