- In a letter to the UN, Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz says the 1991 ceasefire between his Western Sahara liberation movement and Morocco "cannot be dissociated from" progress in the deadlocked peace process. Condemning Moroccan sabotage to "mutually accepted" peace agreements that were the bases of the ceasefire, Mr Abdelaziz urged the UN to get tougher on Rabat or end its peacekeeping mission.
Mr Abdelaziz, who is also President of the exiled Sahrawi government, yesterday wrote to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the UN Security Council is expecting an update on the Western Sahara conflict. The Council at the end of this month is discuss the future of the UN peacekeepers (MINURSO), which are monitoring the ceasefire and are set to organise a deadlocked referendum over Western Sahara's independence. MINURSO's mandate expires on 31 October.
The UN Secretary-General already has received a heavy-worded letter from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, blaming Algeria for the Western Sahara conflict. The Moroccan letter rejected peace plans Rabat had agreed to in 1991 and 1997 - which were to lead to a referendum over independence in Western Sahara - and in particular rejected the solution currently sought by the Security Council. Instead, Morocco was to offer autonomy to the territory.
The Moroccan letter has infuriated the Polisario leader, saying Rabat is demonstrating an "unacceptable attitude" that could "submerge our region in a dangerous situation whose consequences no one could now foresee." The new Moroccan strategy was a "step into the unknown," Mr Abdelaziz added.
Morocco's "unacceptable obstructing policies to the UN efforts" were also threatening the ceasefire that was agreed in 1991, after a 16-year war between Morocco and Polisario that sent an estimated 150,000 Sahrawis to Algerian refugee camps. The conditions for the 1991 ceasefire had been the stationing of MINURSO to monitor it and prepare for a referendum over Western Sahara's future status. Preparations for the referendum were called off in 2000.
Now, its conditions were removed by the Moroccan side, Mr Abdelaziz to the UN leadership. "The ceasefire has been agreed and accepted by the two parties as a step to the holding of the referendum on self-determination, and thus, cannot be dissociated from it," the Polisario leader warned. This is so far the clearest threat from the Sahrawi leader that Polisario may have to reconsider the ceasefire if progress in not made soon.
Consequently, Mr Abdelaziz questioned the future of MINURSO. "In other words, United Nations presence in Western Sahara cannot be transformed by Morocco's obstruction to the peace process into a mere observation of a colonial occupation," the Polisario leader wrote to Mr Annan.
Mr Abdelaziz nevertheless concluded his letter saying the Polisario would continue its cooperation with the UN in order to implement one of the peace plans previously approved by all parties. "We believe that there is no more room for further discussions. It is time to implement what has been achieved during 18 years of invaluable efforts and at the cost of more than 700 millions of dollars," he writes.
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