On 29 October, the UN Security Council will vote on the UN mission in Western Sahara’s renewal. Following last year’s resumption of hostilities and the appointment of a new envoy, Council members should signal their commitment to relaunching negotiations and an even-handed approach to the conflict.
UN Security Council renewed peacekeeping mission’s mandate for one year, while Morocco and pro-independence Polisario Front continued to seek diplomatic support for their respective positions.
UN Security Council called for revival of UN-led peace process. UN Security Council 27 Oct extended mandate of UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 Oct 2023; resolution, adopted by 13 votes in favour with Russia and Kenya abstaining, renewed call on Morocco and Polisario Front to “resume negotiations” to allow for “lasting and mutually acceptable” solution, and expressed “deep concern” at breakdown of 1991 ceasefire. Ahead of vote, UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 3 Oct released annual report on situation in Western Sahara, noting that low-intensity military clashes between Moroccan military and Polisario Front continued, Morocco conducted airstrikes in Western Sahara, and Polisario Front imposed limits to MINURSO’s operations east of the sand berm.
Diplomatic battle over Western Sahara continued. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa 18 Oct hosted Polisario Front leader and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic President Brahim Ghali and reaffirmed his position in favour of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination. During visit to Morocco, Belgian FM Hadja Lahbib 20 Oct reiterated Belgium’s support for UN-led process and said Rabat’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara was “good basis” for final settlement of dispute.
We're seeing a diplomatic war [over Western Sahara], where both sides [Algeria and Morocco] are resorting to anything short of open conflict.
In the long term, the [Western Sahara] independence movement's diplomatic margin of maneuver is getting ever more narrow.
[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.
Hugh Pope is joined by North Africa experts Intissar Fakir and Riccardo Fabiani to ask whether Morocco holds a winning hand in its conflict with the pro-independence Polisario Front in Western Sahara as Europe looks on timidly, wary of direct challenges to the regional power.
The fighting in Western Sahara, which broke out again in November 2020, remains of low intensity. Yet outside powers would be wrong to assume that it will not escalate. With U.S. support, the new UN envoy should pursue confidence-building measures that could facilitate negotiations.
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.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood talk with Dahlia Scheindlin and Crisis Group’s North Africa Project Director Riccardo Fabiani about the normalisation of relations between Israel and Morocco and the accompanying U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
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.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.