Morocco rejects Polisario presence in buffer zone: PM

Moroccan political parties urge UN to force Polisario Front to withdraw from disputed areas
LAAYOUNE, Morocco: Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani on Monday said the Moroccan people rejected any Polisario presence in the buffer zone separating Morocco from Polisario-held territory in the disputed Western Sahara region.
Othmani described a recent series of meetings he had with local representatives in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, as “a message to the international community that Western Sahara remains an issue of deep concern for Moroccans of all backgrounds”.
The Moroccan authorities, Othmani added, were prepared to act “firmly” in response to any perceived “provocations” in the region by the Polisario Front.
In a related development, several prominent Moroccan political parties called on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to take measures aimed at forcing the Polisario to withdraw from the buffer zone.
A joint declaration to this effect was signed by party representatives on Monday — in Othmani’s presence — at a meeting held in Laayoune.
It was the first time ever for the Moroccan prime minister to meet with heads of political parties in Laayoune to discuss the Western Sahara question.
Signatories also urged the international community to take “firm, resolute and deterrent measures to force the Polisario to withdraw from these areas and abandon its attempts to create new realities on the ground”.
Morocco recently accused the Polisario of bringing military supplies from Algeria to areas east of the buffer zone, which lies along the disputed region’s eastern border and where UN troops are currently deployed.
Occupied by Spain until 1975, Western Sahara — a large territory in southern Morocco — has remained the subject of dispute between Rabat and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front for more than four decades.
Following years of conflict, the two parties signed a UN-backed ceasefire in 1991, but both sides still lay claim to the region.
The Polisario has long demanded a popular referendum in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate.–AA

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