Western Sahara's Polisario says ready to talk, not lay down arms

Western Sahara's Polisario says ready to talk, not lay down arms
The Polisario Front said that it was willing to join talks on the Western Sahara's future, but would not lay down its arms.
2 min read
UN-led negotiations involving Morocco and the Polisario have been suspended since March 2019 [AFP]

The Polisario Front, which seeks independence for disputed Western Sahara, said Tuesday that it was still willing to join UN talks on the territory's future - but would not lay down its arms.

"In the past, we put all our trust in the international community and definitively ended our armed struggle," said senior Polisario security official Sidi Ould Oukal.

"We have waited 30 years. Thirty years of broken promises, prevarication and untenable waiting."

The Polisario Front fought a war for independence from Morocco from 1975 to 1991.

A UN-backed ceasefire deal was meant to lead to a referendum on self-determination in the former Spanish colony, of which it controls about one fifth.

Morocco has offered autonomy, but maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom.

In November, Morocco sent troops into a UN-patrolled buffer zone to reopen a key road leading to Mauritania.

The Polisario responded by declaring the 1991 ceasefire null and void, arguing the road had not existed when the truce was signed.

The two sides are reported to have since exchanged regular fire along the demarcation line.

The administration of US President Donald Trump then broke decades of precedent by recognising Morocco's full sovereignty over the territory, in exchange for Rabat normalising relations with Israel.

UN-led negotiations involving Morocco and the Polisario, with Algeria and Mauritania as observers, have been suspended since March 2019.

Ould Oukal, speaking in an online news conference alongside the group's permanent representative at the UN, Omar Sidi Mohamed, insisted the group was "open to any mediation".

"But at the same time, we will keep up the armed struggle, based on past experiences," he said.

"The struggle of the Sahrawi people will continue, whether there are negotiations or not."

He said the recent fighting had seen Sahrawi forces launch 500 separate actions, and that Sahrawis were returning from abroad to fight for their independence.

"This is just the beginning," he said. "It's going to escalate."

Agencies contributed to this report.

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