A fragile peace in North Africa is in danger of breaking down. In mid-November, the Sahrawi independence movement Frente Polisario declared its intention to resume armed struggle against Morocco after almost thirty years. This was preceded by a military operation by Morocco in the border hinterland between Western Sahara and Mauritania. The conflict over the Moroccan-controlled territory of Western Sahara has impeded regional cooperation in North Africa for decades. For the EU, Morocco is an important partner in terms of migration policy. Algeria, on whose territory the Polisario refugee camps are located, works closely with European partners in combating extremist groups. In addition, since the resignation of former German President Horst Köhler in April 2019, the position of UN Special Envoy for Western Sahara has been vacant.
In the online event A Frozen Conflict Thaws: Renewed Violence in Western Sahara organised by the German Africa Foundation and the German Council on Foreign Relations, we pointed out current developments and discussed the role that neighbors can play, the possible unravelling of an international crisis , and the prospects for resuming peace negotiations.
Dr Isabelle Werenfels, Senior Fellow, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs)
Dr Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, Head of the UN peacekeeping mission MINURSO 2012-2013
Philipp Holzapfel, Head of Division Maghreb, German Federal Foreign Office
David Schwake, Senior staff member of the UN Special Envoy for Western Sahara until the end of 2019, Secretary General German Africa Foundation
Dr Gerrit Kurtz, Research Fellow for Crisis Prevention and Diplomacy in Africa, German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP).