What's in a flag? Mauritania 'deploys missiles' towards Morocco

What's in a flag? Mauritania 'deploys missiles' towards Morocco
As the Western Sahara dispute remains in deadlock, Morocco's relations with its neighbours continued to sour this week with Mauritania reportedly ordering missiles to its northern border.
3 min read
21 Aug, 2016
Morocco constructed a fence along part of its border with Algeria last year [AFP]

Tensions along Morocco's borders with Algeria and Mauritania were raised this week following diplomatic disagreements between the nations.

Fences were erected on the country's western border while missiles were allegedly deployed to its south.

The moves came as the United Nations prepared to forward its federation proposal to resolve the stalemated Western Sahara dispute between the North African kingdom and the Polisario Front.

Border fences and bruised relations

The latest dispute by the troubled North African nations follows Morocco's construction of a 100km fence along a frontier region with Algeria. This was matched by Algiers digging a 700km long trench on its side, while the country has lately started to erect 3.5 meter tall fence along its north-east border.

The new fence is located around 10km north of the Moroccan City of Beni Drar. According to Hassan Ammari - an expert on immigration and frontier issues - the work on the new barrier began over a week ago.

"The construction of the Algerian fence started 10 days ago and is underway," Ammari told Spain's Agencia EFE.

Ammari added that the fence is located in an area that is regularly used by sub-Saharan migrants and fuel smugglers. It is thought that the fence aims to end cross-border drug trafficking and illegal migration.

While Algerian authorities have refused to officially confirm the fence's construction, according to a source cited by Morocco World News, images have appeared on social media allegedly showing the work underway.

A twitter post allegedly showing the fence's construction [Twitter]

Mauritania 'readies missiles'

As tensions simmered along Morocco's western frontier, on the southern border with Mauritania. 

Government-affiliated Mauritanian news website Zahra Changhit said that its army was ordered to be get ready to deploy missiles on the Moroccan border.

This was said to be in response to Morocco's decision to send members of its armed police to the buffer zone region of Gargarate. Morocco said the gendarmerie were deployed to tackle drug smugglers but Mauritania wasn't convinced.

Frayed relations between Rabat and Nouakchott follow a flag raising incident in December 2015, when Mauritanian authorities decided to raise the national banner over the city of Lagouria - a city Morocco considers part of its territory.

Mauritania was accused of breaking a tacit agreement between the two nations by raising its flags.

Following this, Morocco sent a high-level delegation to discuss the city's status with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Under his presidency, relations between Mauritania and Morocco have reached their lowest ebb in decades.

Mauritania currently maintains its lowest ever diplomatic presence in Morocco, with no ambassador serving in Rabat.

Adding to tensions between the two nations was also the fact that Mauritania's president hosted Polisario envoy Mohammed Khdad last Thursday.

During the meeting, Khdad described Lagouria as a "liberated" territory, which is likely to further rift between Nouakchott and Rabat.