Turkey voiced strong support for a political solution in the framework of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions in the Western Sahara conflict between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
"Turkey supports the efforts to achieve a fair and lasting political solution to the Western Sahara issue within the scope of United Nations Security Council resolutions," Turkey's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.
Aksoy stressed the importance of adhering to the measures taken by Morocco to “ensure the free movement of people and goods in the Guerguerat buffer zone on the Morocco-Mauritania highway."
The comments came after the Moroccan military said Friday it has launched an operation in a United Nations-patrolled border zone in disputed Western Sahara to clear a key road it said was being blockaded for weeks by supporters of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
The country's forces set up a security cordon overnight in the Guerguerat buffer zone on Western Sahara’s southern border with Mauritania, "in order to secure the flow of goods and people through this axis."
It said the operation has been launched because about 60 people supervised by Polisario were blocking a road connecting Morocco with Mauritania and called it a "non-offensive operation” that would involve the use of arms "only in the case of self-defense,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Meanwhile, the Algerian-backed Polisario group accused Morocco of breaking their nearly three-decade cease-fire and igniting a new war.
The Polisario and Morocco fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in the former Spanish colony in 2008.
Rabat considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco and proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Polisario Front insists on a U.N. referendum on independence.
The planned referendum has been repeatedly postponed due to disputes between Rabat and the Polisario over voter rolls and the question to be put. Negotiations on the territory's future involving Morocco, the Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have been suspended for several months.