However, the Polisario Front argued that they were acting self-defense. Before any formal declaration of war, the Polisario Front declared their red line for ending the 30-year ceasefire. In its words, “the entry of any Moroccan military, security or civil entity [into disputed territory] will be considered as a flagrant aggression to which the Sahrawi side will respond vigorously in self-defence and to defend its national sovereignty […] This will also mean the end of the ceasefire and the beginning of a new war across the region.”
The Polisario Front also issued a challenge to the UN peacekeepers, stating “The Sahrawi government also holds the United Nations and the Security Council in particular responsible for the safety and security of Sahrawi civilians.”
The Polisario Front held that they had a right to be “demonstrating peacefully,” which they claim the Moroccans met with undue force. The violence between the two neighbors escalated, reaching a breaking point when Polisario Secretary General Brahim Ghali declared the “resumption of armed struggle in defense of the legitimate rights of our people.”
In the days leading up to the declaration of resumption of direct conflict, the United Nations attempted to ease tensions. A United Nations statement issued on behalf of the Secretary General warned both parties of the danger of making “ […] changes to the status quo” with regards to conditions in the disputed territory. The statement went on to convey “ […] grave concern regarding the possible consequences of the latest developments,” and that the UN is committed to do everything possible to “ […] remove all obstacles to the resumption of the political process.”
Not every international observer has been satisfied with the reaction of the UN, however. Riccardo Fabiani, North Africa Project Director at the International Crisis Group, criticized the United Nations for being “quiet [sic] negligent” towards the issue, citing a failure “to try and mediate between the two sides.”
Statements and actions from other international players have also urged caution. The bordering nation of Algeria, longtime backers of the Polisario Front, released a statement denouncing “serious violations” of the ceasefire agreement and urging “ […] responsibility and restraint” on both sides of the conflict.
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the African Union, issued a statement in which he urged “all the parties to uphold the Settlement Plan,” and called on the United Nations to “urgently appoint a Special Envoy to the Western Sahara to address all the underlying causes of tensions and assist with finding lasting peace in that region.”