The Security Council this afternoon decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 20 October, to prepare for the resumption of the process of identifying prospective voters and to enable concerned members of the Council to consult with their authorities on a proposed expansion of the Mission.
Through its unanimous adoption of resolution 1131 (1997), the Council also welcomed the Secretary-General's recommendation that, following the initial three-week extension, MINURSO's mandate should be extended for a further six months, until 20 April 1998, so it might proceed with the tasks associated with the identification process. The Council expressed its readiness to consider further action in accordance with that recommendation.
The planned referendum is intended to enable the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration with Morocco. On the basis of the original timetable agreed to by the parties, the self- determination referendum would be held within one year from resumption of the identification process.
The meeting, which was called to order at 12:45 p.m., was adjourned at 12:47 p.m.
Following is the text of the resolution adopted today by the Council:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions on the question of Western Sahara,
"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 25 September 1997 (S/1997/742 and Add.1), and the agreements reached between the parties recorded in that report,
"Expressing its satisfaction at the extent to which the parties cooperated with the personal envoy of the Secretary-General and urging the parties to continue this cooperation by fully implementing the said agreements and the settlement plan,
"Reiterating 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,
"1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 20 October 1997, in accordance with the recommendation of the Secretary-General contained in his report;
"2. Welcomes the other recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General of 25 September 1997 and expresses its readiness to consider further action in accordance with these recommendations;
"3. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
In considering the situation in Western Sahara, the Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document S/1997/742 and Add.1), in which he recommends that it extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for three weeks, until 20 October 1997, to prepare for the resumption of the process to identify prospective voters in the referendum there and to enable concerned members of the Council to consult with their authorities on a proposed expansion of the Mission. He further recommends that MINURSO's mandate be extended thereafter for a period of six months, until 20 April 1998, in order to proceed with identification tasks.
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6424 3821st Meeting (PM) 29 September 1997
The Secretary-General's recommendations follow several rounds of direct talks under United Nations auspices between the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y del Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO), in which the parties reached agreement on outstanding issues relating to the identification process, to the preparatory work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the repatriation of Saharan refugees, and to the code governing the conduct of the parties during the referendum campaign. Compromise agreement was also reached on the outstanding question of Frente POLISARIO troop confinement. With respect to prisoners of war and Saharan political detainees, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to the relevant provisions of the settlement plan. At the conclusion of the fourth round of direct talks, the parties agreed to a set of practical measures to be taken for the resumption of the identification process. They also agreed on an important declaration relating to the authority of the United Nations during the transitional period. With these agreements, the main contentious issues that had impeded the implementation of the settlement plan have thus been satisfactorily addressed, the Secretary-General states. These achievements create the conditions to proceed towards the full implementation of the settlement plan, starting with the resumption of the identification process. He says MINURSO should be provided with the necessary resources on an urgent basis, in order to build on the current momentum. Ultimately, it is only the genuine commitment of the parties to the settlement plan and the agreements reached in the direct talks that will determine whether it is possible to fulfil its objectives. The identification of all remaining prospective Saharan voters could be completed at the earliest feasible opportunity, provided that both parties cooperate totally with the Commission in carrying out its tasks in accordance with the measures agreed. The identification operation would be conducted in successive phases. By the end of the process, the list of persons judged eligible to vote would be published, and the transition period could begin shortly thereafter, upon completion of other steps required under the settlement plan. On the basis of the original timetable for the transitional period, the referendum of self- determination in Western Sahara would thus be held within a year. Should the Secretary-General's recommendations be approved by the Council, he would dispatch a technical team during the first half of October 1997, to reassess the resource requirements for the deployment of MINURSO at full strength. He would make a comprehensive report to the Council in November with a detailed plan, timetable and financial implications for the holding of the referendum of self-determination and fulfilment of the United Nations objectives in Western Sahara. The full cost of completing the identification process is projected at $20.8 million, according to the addendum to the Secretary-General's report. That figure provides for the operation of up to nine identification centres and expanding MINURSO by 298 civilian personnel, including 72 identification staff and 81 civilian police. It also covers the cost for the preparation and emplacement of identification staff, police and equipment.
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