United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Tensions in the Western Sahara region remain high between Moroccan troops and fighters of the Polisario independence movement, UN officials said Wednesday amid growing fears of a full-blown conflict.
"The situation remains tense in the Guerguerat area of Western Sahara inside the buffer strip," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that "any resumption of hostilities, with the potential to have wider regional implications, remains of significant concern to the UN."
Tensions flared recently after Morocco began road construction in the area south of a buffer zone separating the two sides.
The construction has been met with resistance by Polisario Front fighters, who are separated from Moroccan troops on the opposite side of the land strip by some 120 meters (yards), the UN spokesman said.
The UN is "actively engaging with the parties and key member states to urge restraint and identify options for an acceptable solution to the current crisis," Dujarric said.
The Polisario Front's UN representative, Ahmed Boukhari, said he had met Wednesday with the head of the Security Council, New Zealander Gerard van Bohemen, to "inform him in detail" about the situation in the Guerguerat area, "which represents a breach in the terms of the ceasefire."
The situation "threatens the prospects of a peaceful solution to the conflict and poses a direct threat to the region's stability and security," Boukhari said in a statement.
He called on the Security Council "to assume its responsibilities to avoid that the situation unilaterally created by Morocco doesn't lead to a scenario of conflict open to unpredictable consequences."
A confidential UN report last week accused both Morocco and the Polisario Front of ceasefire violations in Western Sahara after they sent security forces and fighters into the buffer zone.
The situation is being monitored by the UN mission known as MINURSO, which set up a patrol near the tense area.
MINURSO was established in 1991 after a ceasefire ended a war that broke out when Morocco sent troops to the former Spanish territory in 1975 to fight the Polisario Front's ethnic Sahrawi rebels.
Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of its kingdom despite UN resolutions that task MINURSO with organizing a referendum on self-determination.