Western Sahara headed back towards war?
The UN Security Council on April 27 extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force for Western Sahara (MINURSO) through the end of October 2018, while calling for Morocco and the Polisario Front to finally negotiate an end to the decades‑old conflict. Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco, while the Polisario Front seeks independence for the territory. The territory has since the 1975-1991 war that followed its independence from Spain been divided by a series of sand berms and a "buffer zone." These separate the territory's Morocco-occupied west and a Polisario-controlled eastern strip. The Security Council called for the Polisario Front to immediately withdrawal from the buffer strip around the area of Guerguerat, to refrain from any destabilizing actions. It also expressed concern over Polisario's planned relocation of administrative functions form Tindouf, across the border in Algeria, to Bir Lahlou within Western Sahara, (ReliefWeb, April 27)
March 16 saw a confrontation, with shots fired, between MINURSO and Polisairo fighters in the buffer zone near the town of Tifariti. Bir Lahlou and Tifariti have emerged as potential flashpoints, with Morocco insisting they are within the buffer zone, and therefore barred to control by either side. The UN has found that they do not fall within the buffer zone, and therfore can be legitimately controlled by Polisario. Since December, Morocco has repeatedly complaned to the United Nations of Polisario "provocations" within the buffer zone. (Sahara Press Service, April 21; Sahara News, April 20; Morocco World News, April 2)