The President of the Moroccan Center for Strategic Studies on the impact of the Sahara conflict on regional security:
The last few weeks have witnessed increased tensions over the Sahara conflict – a more than forty year long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed separatist group Polisario Front, which seeks independence for Morocco’s southern provinces. Although a ceasefire between sides has held since 1991, subsequent attempts to negotiate peace have been unsuccessful. The United Nations (UN) has called for a negotiated political solution to the conflict for at least a decade, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s recent visit to Algeria and the Polisario-run refugee Tindouf camps has only complicated matters. Moreover, Ki-moon’s statements and actions violated the UN’s neutrality and commitment to a mutually acceptable political solution to the conflict. This has set off a series of strong responses from Moroccans – justifiably so.
Unfortunately, this incident fits the standard pattern of fixation on recent developments over the Sahara in isolation instead of examining the issue as one part of a broader regional security dynamic. Even the UN Security Council has sought a bilateral solution to the current diplomatic incident at the expense of a regional approach. The President of the Security Council and Angolan Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins has mentioned on several occasions that talks over the Sahara will continue solely on a bilateral basis between individual members of the Council and Morocco. While that approach may be necessary to push through the current impasse, the Sahara issue should not be seen as isolated from the context of regional instability. Accordingly, the surrounding conversation needs to be expanded to address the broader impasse – the roots of the Sahara conflict itself…[FULL STORY]