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Western Sahara Ends Truce With Morocco

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CAIRO — The chief of a pro-independence group in Western Sahara declared conflict Saturday on Morocco, shattering a three-decade-long cease-fire and threatening a full-blown army battle within the disputed desert territory in northwest Africa.

The announcement got here a day after Morocco launched a military operation in a United Nations-patrolled buffer zone after having accused the pro-independence group, the Polisario Entrance, of blocking entry to neighboring Mauritania.

The eruption of hostilities in Western Sahara provides to the instability roiling a few of Africa’s largest nations, with a protracted conflict in Libya, long-simmering insurgency in Mali and the threat of a civil war in Ethiopia.

On Friday, Morocco stated it had put up a “safety cordon” on an vital street connecting the nation to Mauritania, which the Polisario considers unlawful as a result of the independence group says it was inbuilt breach of the 1991 United Nations-brokered truce.

Either side stated late on Friday that that they had exchanged hearth however didn’t verify any deaths or accidents. Nor did they specify what number of combatants on both sides had been concerned.

The Polisario Entrance accused Morocco of getting shot at peaceable protesters whom the independence group stated had been demonstrating in opposition to what it known as the plunder of sources from the Sahrawi, the individuals who stay in Western Sahara — all underneath the watch of the U.N. peacekeeping mission within the disputed territory.

The secretary common of the Polisario Entrance, Brahim Ghali, issued a decree asserting the “resumption of armed wrestle in protection of the official rights of our folks.”

There was no quick response from the Moroccan authorities on the announcement.

The choice to finish the dedication to a cease-fire, which had outlined the battle for many years, now threatens to uncap the long-festering tension between the Moroccan kingdom and the liberation movement.

Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory, was occupied by Morocco in 1975 after the Spanish colonial authorities withdrew. The Polisario, a socialist guerrilla motion fashioned in 1973, waged a conflict for independence and established the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic that acquired recognition from entities together with the African Union.

The United Nations helped mediate a truce in 1991, with the understanding {that a} referendum could be held to determine whether or not the folks of Western Sahara would select independence or integration with Morocco. That referendum has but to happen, principally as a result of the 2 sides can not decide on who makes up the Indigenous folks of the territory and will subsequently be permitted to take part within the vote.

The battle has left Morocco controlling about 80 p.c of the disputed territory, leaving 1000’s of Sahrawis dwelling in a protracted displacement state of affairs close to the Algerian city of Tindouf.

For years, the talks between the 2 sides have been vexed, with some observers worrying that terrorist groups might gain a foothold within the huge desert swathe and additional undermine stability within the area. The negotiations have mainly stalled since 2019, after the previous particular U.N. envoy resigned, citing health reasons.

The escalating tensions in current days have drawn issues from the United Nations, the African Union and nations in North Africa and throughout the Center East. The U.N. secretary common, António Guterres, stated in a statement on Friday that he was “decided to do the whole lot potential to take away all obstacles to the resumption of the political course of.”