Rabat – While the separatist group commonly known as the Polisario Front has been eager to receive weapons from Algiers, the group’s major supporter has just canceled a major arms deal with Russia due to “financial difficulties,” according to Moroccan media.
Algeria, already dealing with a financial crisis due to the decline in oil prices, has just canceled an arms agreement with Russia, a reliable source told Moroccan news outlet Le360. Algeria had been expecting to receive an important shipment of arms, a huge number of which would have been delivered to the separatist group.
This month, the Polisario Front has threatened Morocco and the United Nations with reentry of the border territory of Guerguerat through military operations carried out near the region.Le360’s source said that Algeria’s reasons for canceling the arms deal with Russia were not “acceptable to” the separatist group. Instead, certain “hawks” within the Polisario alleged that Algeria had refused to renew its arms supplies with the separatist group due to the “pressure” exerted by French President Emmanuel Macron during his recent visit to Algeria.
The Polisario has accused Macron of intervening with Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to cancel the “arms” contract of the Polisario.
On December 6, Macron visited Algeria in order to discuss the Western Sahara issue. On the eve of his visit, Macron told the Algerian daily El Khabar that he was in favor of opening up a “dialogue between Morocco and Algeria around the Sahara issue” as “the resolution of this crisis represents a major challenge for integration of the Arab Maghreb.”
However, the statement of France President did not please Polisario Front leader, Ibrahim Ghali. In fact, the President of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) sent a message to Macron warning about use of a “unilateral approach” in the Western Sahara conflict.
Ghali said that such an approach “ignores the realities,” and would not “serve peace and cooperation in North Africa and the southern Mediterranean.”
During Macron’s interview with the Algerian daily, journalist Hafid Soualili suggested to the president that his stance on the Western Sahara appeared “biased towards Morocco.” Macron, however, rejected the characterization, saying that in contrast he wishes to rely on both countries to come up with a concrete resolution of the issue.
According to Macron, the problem lies mainly between Morocco and Algeria, and it is “up to the two countries to settle” their dispute.
Algeria, however, is no longer hiding its support for the so-called SADR. The country has supplied the separatist group with arms several times. In May, the Algerian government made an important arms delivery to the Polisario to encourage the separatist group to continue escalation of its military operations against Morocco.
In the past few weeks, Polisario has been conducting military operations near Guerguerat. During its most recent operation, Algeria participated in one of its military forays. Moroccan media also reported that the Polisario Front received heavy arms from Algeria. Members of the Algerian military forces also participated in the military operations, according to reports.
Morocco Slams Polisario’s Military Operations
Morocco has strongly condemned the Polisario’s armed operations near Guerguerat. On Thursday, December 28, Morocco’s government spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi said that the Polisario’s maneuvers in the region reflect its disarray and the dislocation of its ranks,” as a result of the successive victories achieved by Morocco in defending its territorial integrity.
The minister added that Morocco is “advancing with firm and assured steps in the defense and consolidation of its territorial integrity.”
The government spokesperson added that Morocco is implementing a development model in the region that is beneficial and “fruitful.”
The minister added that anyone who visits the region will notice the ongoing transformation through the development projects intended to establish a new economic pole. The Polisario has been studying possible military forays into Guerguerat. The leader of the separatist group addressed a message to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, threatening to move into the region.
The Moroccan daily Akhbar Al Yaoum reported on Friday that the separatist group is plotting a military attack on Morocco’s military forces in Guerguerat. The SADR’s Minister of Defense confirmed the potential move. “The front will not maintain its refugee status quo forever,” he said.