Morocco’s king warned on Monday that his country would react with the “greatest severity” to any attack in Western Sahara , because the pro-independence Polisario Front said conflict would continue until Rabat ended its “occupation” of the disputed territory.
The United Nations said that each side had exchanged fire, and urged restraint.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI, speaking after a call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Rabat remained committed to a ceasefire.
But Morocco also “remains firmly determined to react, with the best severity, and in self-defence, against any threat to its security”, the king said, quoted in a politician statement.
The crisis erupted after Morocco launched a operation Friday to reopen a key highway at the Guerguerat border crossing between the territory and Mauritania.
It accused the Polisario of blocking the highway, which is vital to trade with the remainder of Africa.
The Algerian-backed Polisario, which doesn’t recognise the existence of the highway, responded by declaring the top of an almost three-decade UN-supervised ceasefire in Western Sahara .
“The end of the war is now linked to the top of the illegal occupation of parts of the territory of the Sahrawi Republic,” senior Polisario official Mohamed Salem Ould Salek said on Monday.
“The war only started as a consequence of Morocco’s aggression and action in Guerguerat,” said Ould Salek, who is secretary of state of the Polisario-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
He also downplayed the importance of the highway, where trucks had been blocked for weeks. Traffic resumed on Saturday between Mauritania and Morocco, the 2 countries have said.
“It isn’t a world or maybe regional road. it’s getting used to loot the natural resources of the Sahrawi people,” Ould Salek said, accusing Morocco of getting started the newest conflict.
Rabat controls around three quarters of the Western Sahara , a huge swathe of desert on the Atlantic Coast , including its phosphate deposits and its lucrative ocean fisheries. The Polisario controls the rest .
Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral a part of the dominion and has offered autonomy for the disputed territory, but insists it’ll retain sovereignty.