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Vol 61 No 23

Published 19th November 2020


Gunfight ends 30-year calm

Polisario's efforts to stymie Morocco's growing trans-African trade may have yielded more results than decades of talk

While Morocco was congratulating itself on persuading an emerging regional power, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to open a consulate in El Ayoun (known to Moroccans as Laâyoune), capital of the disputed Western Sahara, a group of Polisario Front independence movement supporters were on the former Spanish colony's southern border with Mauritania, blocking the kingdom's main trade route into its burgeoning West Africa markets. After years of jaw-jaw in New York, Addis Ababa and other centres of international summitry, and Polisario's many previous unfulfilled threats of military action to break the decades-old impasse on settling the region's status, the blockade – which started on 21 October – threatens, finally, to take the Western Sahara conflict into a new phase.

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