The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 1998, as recommended by the Secretary-General in his report to the Council. The extension will permit the Personal Envoy of the Secretary- General to engage in consultations with the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y del Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) to seek a solution to those issues bearing on the implementation of the Settlement Plan for Western Sahara.
Voting unanimously to adopt resolution 1198 (1998), the Council requested the Secretary-General to report in 30 days on the progress of the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreement reached between the parties. The Council also requested the Secretary-General to keep it regularly informed of all significant developments, as well as on the continuing viability of the mandate of MINURSO.
The Settlement Plan involves the holding of a referendum to enable the people of Western Sahara -- in the exercise of their right to self- determination -- to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
Also by the resolution, the Council welcomed the agreement of the Moroccan authorities to formalize the presence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Western Sahara. It requested both parties to take concrete action to enable the UNHCR to prepare for the repatriation of Saharan refugees eligible to vote and their immediate families, according to the Settlement Plan.
Further, the Council called for a prompt conclusion of status-of-forces agreements with the Secretary-General which would greatly facilitate the full and timely deployment of MINURSO-formed military units. Also, the Council recalled that, pending the conclusion of such agreements, the General Assembly model status-of-forces agreement, dated 9 October 1990, should apply provisionally.
The meeting, which began at 1:17 p.m., was adjourned at 1:18 p.m.
The full text of resolution 1198 (1998) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions on the question of the Western Sahara,
"Reiterating its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just and lasting solution to the question of the Western Sahara,
"Reiterating also its commitment to the holding without further delay of a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara in accordance with the Settlement Plan, which has been accepted by the two parties,
"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 11 September 1998 (S/1998/849) and supporting the observations and recommendations contained therein,
"1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 31 October 1998;
"2. Welcomes, in line with paragraph 23 of the report of the Secretary-General, engagement of his Personal Envoy with the parties to seek a solution to those issues bearing upon implementation of the Settlement Plan;
"3. Welcomes also the agreement of the Moroccan authorities to formalize the presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Western Sahara, and requests both parties to take concrete action to enable UNHCR to carry out the necessary preparatory work for the repatriation of Saharan refugees eligible to vote, and their immediate families, according to the Settlement Plan;
"4. Calls for a prompt conclusion of status-of-forces agreements with the Secretary-General which would greatly facilitate the full and timely deployment of MINURSO-formed military units, and in this context notes new progress that has been made, and recalls that pending the conclusion of such agreements, the model status-of-forces agreement dated 9 October 1990 (A/45/594), as provided for in General Assembly resolution 52/12 B, should apply provisionally;
"5. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council 30 days from the date of extension of the mandate of MINURSO on the progress of the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the
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parties, and to keep the Council regularly informed of all significant developments and, as appropriate, on the continuing viability of the mandate of MINURSO;
"6. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
In his report to the Council on the situation concerning Western Sahara, the Secretary-General recommends that the mandate of MINURSO be extended until 31 October (document S/1998/849). The extension will allow the Secretary- General's Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, James A. Baker III, to assess whether the Settlement Plan for Western Sahara can be carried out in its present form or whether there might be adjustments, acceptable to the parties, that would improve the chances of its implementation. If he concludes that the Settlement Plan cannot be carried out, he will advise the Secretary- General on other courses of action that could be pursued.
The MINURSO was established by resolution 658 (1990), under which the Council also approved plans for a settlement of the Western Sahara question. It further provided for the United Nations to supervise a ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, and to organize and conduct a referendum for the people of the Territory to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
The Secretary-General states that the identification of over 147,000 applicants has been completed with the cooperation of the two parties. He is concerned, however, that the question of identification of applicants from the tribal groups H41, H61 and J51/52 remains outstanding. No proposals had been forthcoming from either party that would permit the resumption of identification of members of those tribal groupings, leaving, the Secretary- General states, the unresolved matter as a major impediment to MINURSO's completion of the identification phase and to moving forward to the final phase of the referendum process.
The Frente POLISARIO has asked MINURSO to include, in the area of the Tindouf camps in Algeria and in Mauritania, the identification of those applicants from tribal groups H41, H61 and J51/52 who are listed in the 1974 census of the Territory. According to MINURSO's records, there are 603 such individuals. However, Morocco has refused to participate in their identification until the overall issue of the eligibility of some 65,000 applicants from the above three tribal groups is resolved. They maintain that all 65,000 applicants have the right to be identified and to determine their eligibility to vote.
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The Secretary-General stresses that there are a number of other troubling problems which continue to impede progress towards holding a referendum. Signature of status-of-forces agreements is long overdue. The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of Algeria and Mauritania to sign the agreement and hopes that the agreement may be concluded with the Government of Morocco promptly. He also hopes that signature of the agreement will lead to resolving problems connected with finding sites for and financing the deployment of MINURSO personnel, and with customs clearance of much needed items and equipment.
While the Secretary-General welcomes the agreement of the Moroccan authorities to formalize the presence of the UNHCR, he remains concerned that they have yet to take concrete action to enable the UNHCR to carry out the necessary preparatory work for the repatriation of Saharan refugees eligible to vote and their immediate families. It is imperative for the UNHCR to begin a number of pending activities in the Territory -- including confidence- building, infrastructure development and road reconnaissance -- in order to complete its preparatory tasks and logistics planning.
In another part of the text, the Secretary-General states that the MINURSO area of responsibility remains calm and there have been no indications that either side intends to resume hostilities.
The proposed budget for the maintenance of MINURSO for the period of 1 July 1998 to 30 June 1999 is estimated at $65.1 million gross, equivalent to a monthly rate of $5.4 million gross. Pending the decision of the Council on the deployment of additional military and police personnel after 20 July 1998, the General Assembly appropriated an initial amount of $21.6 million gross, equivalent to a monthly rate of $5.4 million gross, for the period from 1 July to 31 October 1998.
Should the Council decide to extend the mandate of MINURSO, the balance of the requirements for the maintenance of the Mission will be sought from the Assembly during the regular part of its fifty-third session. As at 11 September 1998, unpaid assessed contributions to the MINURSO special account for the period since inception of the Mission to 21 September 1998 amounted to $73.3 million.
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