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Security Council extends mandate of UN Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara until 30 April 2012, unanimously adopting resolution 1979 (2011)

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Security Council
6523rd Meeting (AM)

Calling on Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) to fully adhere to the military agreements reached with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the Security Council today extended that Mission’s mandate until 30 April 2012.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1979 (2011), the Councilwelcomed the parties’ commitment to continue holding small, informal talks in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations. In that regard, it recalled its earlier endorsement of the Secretary-General’s recommendation of 14 April 2008 that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to achieve progress.

The Council also called on the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive negotiating phase by, among other things, devoting attention to the three initiatives proposed by the Secretary-General in paragraph 120 of his report (document S/2011/249). (See Background.)

It further called for continued negotiations without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account efforts made since 2006, with a view to achieving a just, mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

In the text’s preambular paragraphs, the Council stressed the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps and encouraged the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights.

The Council welcomed, in that context, the establishment of a National Council on Human Rights in Morocco and the proposed component regarding Western Sahara, as well as Morocco’s commitment to ensure unqualified and unimpeded access to all Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Council also welcomed the implementation of the enhanced refugee protection programme developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in coordination with the Polisario Front and requested that Office to maintain its consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf camps.

Speaking before the text’s adoption, South Africa’s representative said that while MINURSO had successfully maintained the ceasefire since its establishment 20 years ago, the self-determination for the people of Western Sahara had not been achieved. He urged the parties to find agreement on key issues, particularly given the current momentous time in North Africa’s history, when it was clear that a status quo in which people were denied their human rights could not be maintained.

“Deeply troubled” that the current resolution made no reference to resolution 690 (1991), which originally established the United Nations Mission and which derived its relevance from the intention to hold a referendum for self-determination, Nigeria’s representative emphasized the need for the people of Western Sahara to determine their own destiny. He said human rights violations — particularly those committed in areas of conflict — required constant monitoring and adequate responses, which could only be provided by a legitimate human rights body. Moreover, it was “inconceivable” that no member of the African Union was among the Group of Friends of Western Sahara, he added.

Speaking after the vote and agreeing that status quo was “unsustainable in the longer term”, the representative of the United Kingdom said, while his country supported the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christopher Ross, no progress had been made and that regrettable situation must be addressed. While the core issue under dispute concerned territory and sovereignty, the human rights situation was regularly raised by both parties and comprised an important issue in itself. As such, the United Kingdom was pleased that the resolution now addressed that issue.

France’s representative voiced hope that official negotiations would quickly resume. Expressing support for Mr. Ross’s efforts in that regard, he nevertheless stressed that the future of the process was in the hands of the parties, who must show realism. Indeed, nothing should deviate from ensuring the viability of the Maghreb, he argued, noting that Morocco’s proposal supported that goal. Underscoring the resolution’s message regarding confidence-building measures, including the resumption of family visits, he expressed France’s support for any measures taken towards building mutual confidence.

Calling the resolution “balanced”, Gabon’s representative highlighted its reference to the three proposals from the Secretary-General. He further stressed the need to create conditions conducive to the stability of the Maghreb region.

Convened at 10:40 a.m., the meeting adjourned at 11 a.m.