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AU chief ‘deeply concerned’ about deteriorating situation in Western Sahara

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, has expressed deep concern following the deterioration of the situation in the Western Sahara, especially in the buffer zone of Guerguerat, and the serious threats of breaching the ceasefire in force since 1991.

In a statement in Addis Ababa on Saturday, Faki commended the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, and the countries of the Region who are urging the parties to refrain from any change of the Status quo and to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.

“To this end, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission requests the Secretary General of the United Nations to accelerate the process of appointing his personal Envoy,” the statement said.

Mr. Faki reaffirmed the readiness of the African Union to “actively support the efforts of the United Nations for a just political solution acceptable to all parties to this conflict”.

The UN chief on Friday expressed “grave concern” at the possible consequences which could arise from an operation reportedly launched by the Moroccan Government on the southern border of Western Sahara, in response to a reported highway blockade by supporters of the pro-independence Frente POLISARIO.

The Spokesperson for the Secretary-General said in a statement that in recent days, the UN had been involved in multiple initiatives to avoid an escalation of the situation in Western Sahara’s Buffer Strip in the Guerguerat area.

According to Stéphane Dujarric, UN chief António Guterres had warned against violations of the ceasefire that was agreed upon in 1991 and the serious consequences of any changes to the status quo.

“The Secretary-General regrets that these efforts have proved unsuccessful and expresses grave concern regarding the possible consequences of the latest developments,” the statement said.

In late 1975, fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, known in English as the Polisario Front, as the Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara was ending.

A ceasefire was reached on 6 September 1991 and a UN mission – known as MINURSO – was tasked with monitoring it and organising a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.

However, in the absence of an agreement between the parties, the referendum was not held.

The UN spokesperson upheld that the Secretary-General “remains committed” to doing his utmost to avoid the collapse of the 1991 ceasefire and is determined to “do everything possible to remove all obstacles to the resumption of the political process”.

“MINURSO is committed to continue implementing its mandate and the Secretary-General calls on the parties to provide full freedom of movement for the Mission in accordance with its mandate,” the statement said.

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