Clashes have broken out in Western Sahara, ending a 30-year ceasefire between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front. Fighting could intensify absent outside help. The UN should fill its empty special envoy post, while the U.S. leads international efforts to restart diplomacy.
Polisario Front independence movement leader testified before Spanish court and left country for Algeria. Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali 1 June testified before Spain’s High Court to answer accusations against him of alleged crimes, including torture and genocide; court allowed him to leave Spain where he had been treated for COVID-19 since April. Ghali overnight 1-2 June returned to Algeria and received President Tebboune’s visit in military hospital; in interview with French newspaper Le Point, Tebboune 3 June attacked Rabat and reiterated his full support to Polisario Front.
The Western Sahara conflict is both one of the world’s oldest and one of its most neglected.
The combination of Morocco’s recent proposal of a “Sahara autonomous region”, the Polisario Front’s counter-proposal of independence with guarantees for Moroccan interests and the UN Security Council’s 30 April resolution calling for direct negotiations between the parties – due to begin on 18 June – has been hailed as a promising breakthrough in the protracted Western Sahara dispute.
[The US recognition of Rabat’s claim to Western Sahara] will make Sahrawi youths more angry, mobilised and committed to resolving the conflict through force.
Refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, have long been run by the Polisario movement, which seeks an independent state in Western Sahara, also claimed by Morocco. But a new generation of Sahrawi refugees is growing fractious as aid dwindles and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver a settlement.
Originally published in Al Hayat
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal Europe