Time for International Re-engagement in Western Sahara

The long-dormant conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front over the disputed Western Sahara territory is showing troubling signs of life. A Polisario blockade of a key artery in the UN-monitored buffer zone triggered a Moroccan military response, after which the Front called off a ceasefire and resumed attacks. Recent hostilities augur further escalation, especially absent international efforts to calm tempers and nudge parties back to talks. The Trump administration’s recognition, as part of Rabat’s normalisation accord with Israel, of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, which new U.S. President Joe Biden may choose not to reverse, further complicates things. Outside powers should take two steps to bring the sides back from the edge. First, the UN should appoint a new special envoy for Western Sahara, a post it has left vacant for almost two years. Secondly, Washington should move to encourage de-escalation and revive political talks.