The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 May.
At the same time, the Council supported the intention of the Secretary- General, "in the absence of meaningful progress towards completion of the Settlement Plan", to bring the situation to the immediate attention of the Council and, in such an eventuality, to submit a detailed programme for a phased withdrawal of MINURSO.
The Council took that action by unanimously adopting Security Council resolution 1042 (1996), by which it also expressed deep concern about the stalemate that hindering the identification process and the consequent lack of progress towards completion of the Settlement Plan.
Noting the views expressed by the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), the Council called on the two parties to consider additional ways to create confidence between themselves and to facilitate the implementation of the Settlement Plan.
The Settlement Plan, which was accepted by the two parties on 30 August 1988 and approved by the Council on 27 June 1990 in its resolution 658 (1990), entails the holding of a referendum without military or administrative restraints, to enable the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
The meeting, which was called to order at 12:50 p.m., was adjourned at 12:51 p.m.
When the Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Western Sahara, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document S/1995/43 and Corr.1). In his report, the Secretary-General advises that the Council may want to consider two options. The first would be to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 May, thus allowing time for the identification process to be resumed and an opportunity to test the political will of the parties. If at any time before the expiry of the extended mandate there appeared to be no or very little improvement, the Secretary-General would bring the matter to the attention of the Council.
As a second option, he suggests, the Council might decline approving a further extension unless it was accompanied by the condition that outstanding problems be resolved by specific dates. Consequently, plans should be prepared for a phased withdrawal of MINURSO. The Secretary-General's Special Envoy has conveyed to the parties and observer States the readiness of the Council to contemplate the withdrawal of the Mission despite concern that withdrawal could have destabilizing effects on the region.
The Secretary-General's report was issued in response to the Council's request in resolution 1033 (1995), for the Secretary-General to provide options for its consideration, including the orderly withdrawal of MINURSO in the event intensified consultations failed to lead to agreement. The Council also asked for information on the findings of the Secretary-General's Special Envoy following consultations with the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), the two parties to the settlement plan. The consultations were part of the Secretary-General's effort to resolve differences hindering the identification of applicants eligible to vote in the referendum on Western Sahara.
According to the report, the POLISARIO has agreed to proceed with the identification of all applicants included in the 1974 census, that is, subfractions for which lists of sheikhs or alternates from both parties have already been established. The POLISARIO continued to decline to cooperate in the identification of another large group of applicants -- certain tribal groups which were not represented by subfraction in the 1974 census. The POLISARIO held the view that applications from persons other than those belonging to subfractions specifically represented in the census were not admissible. Further, it would withdraw from the entire process if there was any attempt to identify such applicants with the participation of a sheikh from one side only.
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In his discussions with the POLISARIO, the special Envoy emphasized that the Identification Commission was obliged to process all applications submitted on time. The Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General also advises that if both parties cooperated fully, and the Identification Commission were to be expanded to its full complement of 11 identification centres, it would be possible, in theory, to complete the identification process in 22 weeks or so, or, if the Commission operated at half capacity, in about 44 weeks. Allowing for appeals, a period ranging from six months to one year would be required to complete the identification process. At the time of the report, the total number of persons identified was 60,257.
The Council as a whole or individual Member States may also wish to consider ways to assist the parties in establishing a dialogue, the Secretary- General says. Contacts between the parties could be arranged on a confidential basis. For progress to be achieved, the two parties must have vision of the post-referendum period. The Secretary-General encourages all concerned to help the parties to achieve such a vision. Other aspects of the settlement plan that need to be addressed are the code of conduct, confinement of troops and exchange of prisoners of war.
During the reporting period, the Secretary-General states, the cease- fire was violated on one occasion when the POLISARIO tried to restrict the movement of the military observers. The situation was resolved after some discussion. On 19 November, 186 Moroccan prisoners of war were repatriated with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Governments of the United States and Argentina.
The full text of draft resolution 1042 (1996) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Reaffirming all its previous resolutions on the question of the Western Sahara,
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 19 January 1996 (S/1996/43 and Corr.1),
"Welcoming in this context the visit to the region by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General from 2 to 9 January 1996,
"Noting the views expressed by the Government of Morocco set out in the report of the Secretary-General,
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"Noting also the views expressed by the Polisario Front set out in the report of the Secretary-General,
"Reconfirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara,
"Reiterating the fact that, for progress to be achieved, the two parties must have a vision of the post-referendum period,
"1. Reiterates its commitment to the holding, without further delay, of a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in accordance with the Settlement Plan which has been accepted by the two parties referred to above;
"2. Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 19 January 1996;
"3. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 May 1996;
"4. Expresses deep concern about the stalemate which has been hindering the identification process and the consequent lack of progress towards completion of the Settlement Plan;
"5. Calls upon the two parties to cooperate with the Secretary-General and MINURSO in resuming the identification process, overcoming obstacles hindering completion of that process, and implementing all other aspects of the Settlement Plan, in accordance with the relevant resolutions;
"6. Encourages the two parties to consider additional ways to create confidence between themselves and to facilitate the implementation of the Settlement Plan;
"7. Supports the intention of the Secretary-General, in the absence of meaningful progress towards completion of the Settlement Plan, to bring the situation to the immediate attention of the Council, and invites the Secretary-General in this eventuality to submit for consideration a detailed programme for a phased withdrawal of MINURSO, in accordance with the second option contained in his report of 19 January 1996;
"8. Requests the Secretary-General to submit a report by 15 May 1996 on the implementation of the present resolution;
"9. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
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