27 November 1996

Press Release



The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for six months, until 31 May 1997. It took that action by unanimously adopting its resolution 1084 (1996).

By the resolution, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to continue his efforts with the parties to implement the Settlement Plan and to report to it on implementation of the resolution by 9 May 1997. In his report, the Secretary-General is requested to include proposals for alternative steps, in the framework of the Settlement Plan, should there be no meaningful progress towards removing obstacles to the Plan and his views on the mission's staffing size and configuration.

The Security Council reiterated its commitment to the holding of a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of Western Sahara. It also welcomed the goodwill gestures of the parties, including the release of prisoners, and encouraged them to pursue those efforts to build confidence.

The meeting was called to order at 4:24 p.m. and adjourned at 4:31 p.m.

The text of the resolution reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Reaffirming all its previous resolutions on the question of Western Sahara,

"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 5 November 1996 (S/1996/913),

"Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara,

"Welcoming the reiteration by the Kingdom of Morocco of its commitment to the Settlement Plan,

"Welcoming also the reiteration by the POLISARIO Front of its commitment to the Settlement Plan,

"Stressing the importance it attaches to the maintenance of the cease- fire, as an integral part of the Settlement Plan,

"Stressing also the importance and usefulness of the resumption of exploratory talks between the parties, without prejudice to their respective positions, in order to create an atmosphere of mutual confidence conducive to a speedy and effective implementation of the Settlement Plan,

"Reiterating that, for progress to be achieved, the parties must have a vision of the post-referendum period,

"Noting the completion by the Secretary-General of reductions in the various components of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO),

"1. Reiterates its commitment to the holding, as soon as possible, of a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in accordance with the Settlement Plan;

"2. Supports the activities of the Acting Special Representative in continuing the dialogue with the parties and the two neighbouring countries and in facilitating, in the context of the Settlement Plan, other efforts to set the parties on a course towards an agreed formula for the resolution of their differences, and requests that those activities be accelerated and that the parties continue to cooperate with the Acting Special Representative;

"3. Notes the beneficial effect of demonstrations of good will and of all contacts aimed at achieving the implementation of the Settlement Plan;

"4. Welcomes the steps taken by the parties to demonstrate good will, including the release of prisoners, and the recent indications that the parties are moving forward in their efforts to resolve outstanding questions concerning the implementation of the Settlement Plan, and encourages them to pursue these efforts so as to build confidence between themselves and to facilitate the implementation of the Settlement Plan;

"5. Welcomes also the ongoing activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the cooperation afforded to it by the parties and encourages UNHCR to pursue its humanitarian work and assistance in accordance with its mandate and the Settlement Plan;

"6. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO, on the basis proposed by the Secretary-General in his report of 5 November 1996, until 31 May 1997;

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"7. Requests the Secretary-General to continue his efforts with the parties to break the impasse blocking the implementation of the Settlement Plan, and to submit an interim report to the Council by 28 February 1997 on the outcome of his efforts;

"8. Also requests that in his next report the Secretary-General propose alternative steps, in the framework of the Settlement Plan, should there be no meaningful progress towards removing the obstacles to the implementation of the Plan;

"9. Further requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep the staffing size and configuration of the various components of MINURSO under active review in order to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness, and to include in his next report ways to achieve this aim;

"10. Also requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council closely informed of all significant developments, including their humanitarian aspects, and to submit a comprehensive report on the implementation of this resolution by 9 May 1997;

"11. Decides to remain seized of the matter."

Report of the Secretary-General

When the Security Council met, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (S/1996/913), in which he recommends that the Council extend the mandate of MINURSO for six months, until 31 May 1997. He cautions that the international community could not be expected to indefinitely extend the mission unless tangible progress was made towards settlement of the question of Western Sahara.

The report states that following the adoption of resolution 1056 (1996), the Secretary-General's Acting Special Representative had travelled regularly between Rabat and the Tindouf area. He communicated with the Moroccan Minister of the Interior and with the Coordinator for MINURSO, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO). In October, he met in Algiers with the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Algeria, and in Nouakchott with the President of Mauritania and his Minister of Foreign Affairs. In all of those meetings he had stressed obstacles to the implementation of the Settlement Plan, especially those aspects highlighted by the Security Council.

The Secretary-General urges the parties to cooperate with his Acting Special Representative in his efforts to resolve outstanding aspects of the Settlement Plan. The Special Representative has assisted the parties to overcome their differences, and the presence of the political office and of

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military observers had helped to reassure the parties and ensure respect for the cease-fire. The release of prisoners of war by the Government of Morocco had promoted confidence, and cooperation with the work of the Independent Jurist appointed by the Secretary-General in April 1995 to handle the prisoners issue would be a step in the same direction.

Regarding the work of the Identification Commission, the Secretary- General recalls that last May he had concluded that there could be no early resumption of identification, and that the personnel assigned to those duties should not be retained. He describes the differences of the Government of Morocco and the POLISARIO on the identification process as "irreconcilable".

The POLISARIO, citing earlier reports of the Secretary-General, maintains that applicants should be members of "a Saharan subfraction included in the 1974 census". They further maintain that contested tribal groups H (Tribus del Norte), I (Chorfa) and J (Costeras y del Sur) are not composed of such "subfractions". From those groups Polisario would accept only individuals that had been included in the census. The Government of Morocco insists that those contested groups should be treated like any other subfractions for purposes of the identification process. It wishes MINURSO to proceed with the identification of all persons whose applications were submitted on time, without prejudice to the decision of the Identification Commission.

The parties are also divided over lists of persons already identified and found eligible to vote, according to the Secretary-General. The POLISARIO insists on such lists being made available before the resumption of identification. The Government of Morocco rejects that as an unacceptable departure from the provisions of the Settlement Plan and as lacking approval by the Security Council.

The military component of MINURSO, headed by Major-General Josť Eduardo Garcia Leandro (Portugal), was reduced from a strength of 288 military observers in May to 230 on 1 November, according to the report. Ground patrols have been maintained at previous levels and helicopter reconnaissance flights had been increased.

While the cease-fire continued to hold, MINURSO had noted technical violations and intensified military activity on both sides, apparently aimed at ensuring combat readiness for the end of the MINURSO mandate. The POLISARIO forces conducted live-fire exercises in August. The Royal Moroccan Army conducted live-fire exercises in all subsectors; maintained defence works, firing positions and shelters; established and re-equipped ammunition sites; reorganized units along the berm and conducted air drills from Smara airport.

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The Mission's civilian police component, headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Kleven (Norway), was reduced from 91 in January to 44 by the end of May, and was then cut further to nine civilian police officers in order to ensure the security of equipment and computerized information in Laayoune and Tindouf. The civilian police component continues to provide escort and other assistance to MINURSO, as necessary.

Following the suspension of the identification process, the number of civilian posts in the Mission had been reduced from 410 to 170.

Regarding financial aspects of the Mission, the Secretary-General states that retrenchments had reduced the cost of the mission by some 40 per cent, from an original figure of $48,456,000 per annum to $30,132,000 (net). He recalls that on 17 October, the General Assembly appropriated $13,292,500 gross for the operation of the mission for the period from 1 July to the expiration of its current mandate on 30 November. In the same resolution, the Assembly also appropriated $18,609,500 gross for period from 1 December to 30 June 1997, to be assessed at a monthly rate of $2,658,500 gross, should the Council decide to extend the mission. The Secretary-General notes that as at 31 October, unpaid assessed contributions to the MINURSO special account for the period since the inception of the mission to 30 November amounted to $54.2 million. Total outstanding assessed contributions for all peace-keeping operations as at the same date stood at over $1.7 billion.

Annexes to the report detail the composition of the military component of the mission and the deployment of MINURSO as of November.

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