Guergarate: What is behind the Polisario’s obstinacy?

If someone attempts to understand the inexplicable stubbornness of the Polisario to continue the showdown at Guergarate and the direct confrontation with the UN, he needs to direct his attention towards Algeria.

Actually, the showdown reflects Algeria’s discontent with the UN Chief Antonio Guterres, rather than any inclination to resist on the part of the separatist front, which does not have any decision-making autonomy.

In his recent report on Western Sahara to the Security Council, Antonio Guterres insists on “compromise” and “realism” to search for a settlement of the Western Sahara issue, pulling thus the rug from under Algeria.

To counteract the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario had exerted pressures so that the referendum option be considered again. But much to their annoyance, Antonio Guterres favors “compromise” and “realism” in dealing with the Sahara issue. A realism that had already been advocated by the former UN mediator and predecessor of the American Christopher Ross, the Dutch Peter Van Walsum.

In 2008 Van Walsum came to the conclusion that the independence of Western Sahara claimed by the Polisario with the active support of Algeria was not a realistic option. This immediately caused an outcry in Algiers, forcing the Dutchman to submit his resignation to the Security Council.

Now, the fact that Guterres refers again to the notions of compromise and realism irritates the Algerian generals. From this point of view, the Polisario’s refusal to withdraw from the buffer zone of Guergarate as required by the UN is a barely veiled response from Algeria to the report of the UN Secretary General.

This is all the more so as in Algiers, political leaders and senior brass consider that the report is a victory for Moroccan diplomacy, a fact that only exacerbates their animosity. Besides, the Guterres report stresses the need for neighboring states’ contribution to the political settlement of the Sahara issue. “Algeria and Mauritania, as neighboring countries, must contribute to this process,” insists the UN document.

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