5669th Meeting (AM)
The Security Council decided today to extend the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2007.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1754 (2007), the Council reaffirmed the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO regarding the ceasefire. It called upon the parties to the Western Sahara dispute -- Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente Polisario) -- to enter into negotiations without preconditions and in good faith, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.
The Council requested the Secretary-General to set up those negotiations under his auspices and to provide a report by 30 June 2007 on their status and progress. It also requested him to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period.
By other terms of the text, the Council called on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures that would allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family unification visits.
Speaking before the vote, South Africa's representative noted that preambular paragraph 5 of the text referred to the Council "welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward", which, in his understanding, implied that the plan presented by the Frente Polisario -- based on previous Security Council resolutions and the United Nations Charter -- was less credible. The retention of that word in the text conveyed the unintended meaning that one plan was more "credible". The phrase "to move the process forward" was also unfortunate, as it prejudged the situation ahead. However, South Africa was delighted that both Morocco and the Frente Polisario had expressed an interest to meet and resolve the last colonial issue in Africa, and he looked forward to such a meeting with the hope that it would bring about change for the people of Western Sahara.
However, he expressed regret that operative paragraph 2 "calls upon the parties", which appeared to amend the wording in paragraph 47 of the Secretary-General's report, which reads: "I recommend that the Security Council call upon the parties, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, to enter into negotiations without preconditions, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara." It was also regrettable that the friends who had produced the resolution had given other delegations less than 24 hours to study it, which, unfortunately, made the Council's effort seem less credible. It was to be hoped that, in the future, those who drafted resolutions would make room for other delegations to participate fully. All South Africa wanted was for the people of Morocco and Western Sahara to come together, so that the latter could exercise their right to self-determination. South Africa would support the resolution, though reluctantly, so as not to stand in the way of consensus.
The meeting began at 11:55 a.m. and ended at 12 noon.
The full text of resolution 1754 (2007) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara,
"Reaffirming its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy,
"Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect,
"Reiterating its call upon the parties and States of the region to continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations and with each other to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,
"Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution; also taking note of the Polisario Front proposal presented on 10 April 2007 to the Secretary-General,
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 13 April 2007 (S/2007/202),
"1. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire;
"2. Calls upon the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions in good faith, taking into account the developments of the last months, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara;
"3. Requests the Secretary-General to set up these negotiations under his auspices and invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to such talks;
"4. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report by 30 June 2007 on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices, and expresses its intention to meet to receive and discuss this report;
"5. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period;
"6. Calls on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures that allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family unification visits;
"7. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including pre-deployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;
"8. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2007;
"9. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
Before the Council was the Secretary-General's report on the situation concerning Western Sahara (document S/2007/202) dated 13 April 2007 and covering developments since his report of 16 October 2006 (document S/2007/817). They include the 6 November 2006 confirmation by Morocco's King Mohammed VI of his Government's development of an autonomy proposal with respect to the Territory and of his country's continuing strong commitment to working with the United Nations to find a consensual political solution to which all parties concerned with the dispute could adhere.
The report notes also that, on 8 March 2007, Mohammed Abdelaziz, Secretary-General of Frente Polisario, handed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a document summarizing his organization's position that Western Sahara is a decolonization problem. It states that the solution to the conflict lies in the exercise of the legitimate right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara by means of a referendum.
According to the report, on 19 March, Mohammed Bedjaoui, Algeria's Minister for Foreign Affairs, transmitted to Secretary-General Ban a message from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, underscoring the responsibility of the United Nations vis-à-vis the Saharawi people and its obligation to carry out the decolonization process with the holding of the self-determination referendum.
The report states that, in February and March 2007, Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, consulted with the representatives of interested Member States and detected a general wish to find a way out of the current impasse and reach a solution that would enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination. Having briefed the Security Council on 18 January 2006 and held discussions with its members, the Personal Envoy's analysis was that the Council had consistently made it clear that it would not impose a solution to the Western Sahara question. There are only two options: either indefinite prolongation of the impasse, or negotiations between the parties, without preconditions, aimed at achieving a mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for self-determination.
It was on that conclusion that former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had based his recommendation of 16 October, the report says. Secretary-General Ban notes that his Personal Envoy reminded him that, in its meeting of 31 October 2006, the Security Council made had not rejected or criticized that recommendation, but had simply failed to act on it. Accordingly, taking into account that his analysis and conclusion had not been contested by any Council member, the Personal Envoy thought it might be advisable for the Secretary-General to make exactly the same recommendation.
Recommending that the Council extend the mandate of MINURSO for a further six months, until 31 October 2007, the Secretary-General states that, in the existing circumstances on the ground and in light of his Personal Envoy's continuing efforts, the Mission's presence remains indispensable for the maintenance of the ceasefire in Western Sahara. The Security Council should call upon the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions, and neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania should be invited to the negotiations and consulted separately on issues directly affecting them.
The report says that the Secretary-General welcomes the fact that both parties have begun operations to clear the Territory of mines and unexploded ordnance, as well as their cooperation with MINURSO in that regard, which could provide an opportunity for increased cooperation and confidence-building between them. He welcomes also the Mission's intention to provide increased support in the area of mine-risk education and victim assistance. MINURSO's activities in this area will have a direct positive effect on safety of United Nations personnel and operate as an indirect force protection measure through increased understanding by the local population of the Mission's role and presence.
Noting that the human dimension of the conflict, including the plight of Saharawi refugees, is a continuing concern, the Secretary-General says he is pleased that the exchange of family visits between the Territory and the Tindouf refugee camps has resumed. There are encouraging indications that, building on the success of these visits, the parties are exploring the possibility of increasing the number of beneficiaries of this programme.
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