UN chief concerned about Western Sahara tensions

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged Morocco and the Polisario movement campaigning for the independence of Western Sahara to withdraw soldiers and fighters from a buffer strip who have sent tensions soaring.
Ban said he was “deeply concerned over the tense situation that has developed in the narrow buffer strip in southwestern Western Sahara” between the Moroccan berm that marks Rabat’s area of control and the Mauritanian border.
He called on both sides “to suspend any action that alters that status quo and to withdraw all armed elements so as to prevent any further escalation”, a statement from Ban’s spokesman said.
The UN mission in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, will hold discussions with both sides to de-escalate tensions, he added.
Moroccan soldiers and Polisario fighters were “in close proximity to each other” in the buffer zone, said the UN statement.
A 1991 ceasefire brokered by the United Nations that ended 16 years of conflict between Morocco and the Polisario left the North African kingdom in control of all of the territory’s main towns and the Polisario confined to a narrow strip of the desert interior.
The far south was left as a no-man’s land with neither side having a permanent presence.

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