Western Sahara: UN chief concerned over tensions near UN buffer strip

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A Military Liaison Officer of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), looks through binoculars during a ceasefire monitoring patrol in Oum Dreyga, Western Sahara (June 2010). UN Photo/Martine Perret

The UN Secretary-General has expressed concern over increased tensions near Guerguerat village in the buffer strip in southern Western Sahara.

António Guterres' comments came in a statement issued on Sunday by his spokesperson.

Western Sahara is located on the north-west coast of Africa and is bordered by Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria.

The Territory was administered by Spain until 1976, and fighting later broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement.

Jocelyne Sambira reports.

Unarmed military observers have been deployed by the UN on Western Sahara’s "no-man land" since September last year. 

The buffer strip lies between the Moroccan berm, a defensive sand wall, and the Mauritanian border.

According to a statement issued by UN Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, armed elements of both Morocco and the Polisario Front remain in close proximity to each other, a position they have been in since August 2016.

Both of the parties are being urged by the UN chief to exercise maximum restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid escalating tensions, the statement read.

António Guterres also underlined that regular commercial traffic should not be obstructed and that no action should be taken, which may constitute a change to the status quo of the buffer strip.

He also called on both parties to "unconditionally" withdraw all armed elements in the buffer strip to create an environment conducive to a resumption of the dialogue in the context of the political process led by the UN.

The UN Mission, MINURSO, is responsible for monitoring the ceasefire between the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front and organizing, if the parties agree, a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 1’21”

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