UN welcomes Moroccan pullout from Western Sahara buffer area

February 27, 2017 GMT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations is welcoming the pullout of Moroccan security forces from the tense border strip in southern Western Sahara and is calling on the Polisario Front independence movement to also withdraw its fighters.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and a Polisario representative late last week.

The U.N. chief called on both parties Saturday “to unconditionally withdraw all armed elements from the border strip” and “exercise maximum restraint.”

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front, which wants a referendum on the mineral-rich region’s future.

Moroccan and Polisario forces have faced each other in the buffer strip’s Guerguerat region since August 2016.

Dujarric said Guterres would like to see “a general easing of the tensions.”