Guterres preoccupied about "deterioration" of situation in Western Sahara

New York (United Nations), 3 September 2021 (SPS) – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply concerned" by the sharp "deterioration" of the situation in occupied Western Sahara, describing the resumption of hostilities between Morocco and the Polisario Front as a "major setback" for efforts to find a "peaceful, lasting and mutually acceptable solution to the Saharawi conflict".

"The situation in Western Sahara has deteriorated considerably since my last report," deplores Mr. Guterres in the preliminary draft of the report on the situation in Western Sahara.

"I am deeply concerned about the events in Western Sahara", especially after the breakdown of the 1991 ceasefire and the resumption of hostilities between Morocco and Polisario Front in November 2020.

According to the UN chief, the resumption of hostilities and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic "have significantly altered MINURSO's operational environment, limiting the Mission's ability to implement its mandate.

For Guterres, the resumption of hostilities between Morocco and the Polisario Front constitute "a major setback" for the ongoing efforts to "achieve a political solution to this long-standing dispute". He also warned of "a clear risk of escalation as long as hostilities persist".

To this end, the UN chief called on the parties to the conflict to "de-escalate the situation and cease hostilities immediately", before adding: "the resumption of the political process is most urgent. It remains absolutely essential that the parties agree on the appointment of a personal envoy (of the UN SG) to relaunch the political dialogue on Western Sahara.

However, he is convinced that "a solution is possible despite the recent major setback". He added: "Now more than ever, finding a political, lasting and mutually acceptable solution that will ensure the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in accordance with resolutions 2440 (2018), 2468 (2019), 2494 (2019) and 2548 (2020) requires strong political will on the part of the parties, as well as the international community".

"Therefore, I reiterate my call to the members of the Security Council, friends of Western Sahara and other relevant actors to encourage Morocco and the Polisario Front to engage in good faith and without preconditions in the political process upon the appointment of my new personal envoy," Mr Guterres said.