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Morocco says its move in Sahara 'not military action'

Morocco's Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani in Paris on 19 December 2019. [BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images]
Morocco's Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani in Paris on 19 December 2019. [BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images]

The Moroccan prime minister said on Sunday that interference in the Guerguerat buffer zone in disputed Western Sahara were "not a direct military action but a peaceful act" to reopen the road to neighboring Mauritania, Anadolu reports.

"The Polisario Front has repeatedly blocked the road, and thus violated the cease-fire,"Saad-Eddine El-Othmani told a Cabinet meeting.

Rabat on Nov. 14 launched an operation to restore free circulation of civilian and commercial traffic with neighboring Mauritania.

The Polisario Front said Morocco had broken the cease-fire, saying it was no longer committed to the UN-brokered agreement it reached in 1991 after 16 years of war.

Both sides had been fighting for sovereignty over Guerguerat since Spanish occupation ended in 1975. It was declared a demilitarized zone after the truce.

READ: Jordan to open consulate in Western Sahara amid dispute 

Morocco considers the resource-rich territory its integral part but the Polisario Front insists on a referendum on independence. The planned plebiscite, however, has been repeatedly postponed.

The Moroccan premier said his country made "all diplomatic efforts to solve the problem and called on the UN to intervene, considering that this road is international and not a road to Morocco or Mauritania only."

A professional technical intervention was made to remove roadblocks set up by militias to stop passage across the border, he added.

He also reiterated that Morocco stands firmly for the Palestinian cause.

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