30 October 1998


Press Release
SC/6589



SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MINURSO UNTIL 17 DECEMBER

19981030
The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 17 December.

As it unanimously adopted resolution 1204 (1998), the Council also called on the Government of Morocco and the POLISARIO Front to agree by mid- November to measures, proposed by the Secretary-General, to allow positive consideration of further stages of the settlement process. Those measures relate to the identification of applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52, the appeals process, a memorandum pertaining to the activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the region, and an outline of the next stages of the Settlement Plan.

Also by the resolution, the Council supported MINURSO's intention to start publishing the provisional list of voters by 1 December 1998. It also supported an increase in staff of the Identification Commission from 18 to 25 members and an increase in support personnel to strengthen the Commission and enable it to keep the proposed timetables.

Welcoming the agreement of the Moroccan authorities to formalize the presence of the UNHCR in Western Sahara and the agreement of the POLISARIO Front to resume pre-registration activities in the refugee camps, the Council requested both parties to enable UNHCR to prepare for the repatriation of eligible Saharan refugees and their immediate families, according to the Settlement Plan.

Further, the Council requested the Secretary-General to report by 11 December on the implementation of the resolution, the progress of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the parties. He was also asked to report regularly on all significant developments and on the continued viability of MINURSO's mandate.

The meeting, which began at 1:55 p.m., was adjourned at 1:59 p.m.


Text of Resolution

The text of resolution 1204 (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 26 October 1998 (S/1998/997) and the observations and recommendations contained therein,

"Welcoming also the stated intentions of the Government of Morocco and the POLISARIO Front to cooperate actively with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in implementing the proposals contained in the report,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 17 December 1998;

"2. Welcomes paragraph 4 of the report of the Secretary-General, regarding the protocol relating to the identification of those presenting themselves individually from tribes H41, H61 and J51/52, the protocol relating to the appeals process, the memorandum pertaining to the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the region, and an outline of the next stages of the Settlement Plan, and calls on the parties to agree to this package of measures by mid-November 1998 in order to allow positive consideration of further stages in the settlement process;

"3. Notes the intention of the UNHCR to forward to the parties soon a protocol relating to the repatriation of refugees, and supports efforts in this regard;

"4. Welcomes also the agreement of the Moroccan authorities to formalize the presence of the UNHCR in the Western Sahara, and the agreement of the POLISARIO Front to resume pre-registration activities in the refugee camps, and requests both parties 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, according to the Settlement Plan;


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"5. Notes with regret the constraints on the operational capability of the MINURSO engineering support unit, calls for a prompt conclusion of status- of-forces agreements with the Secretary-General which is an indispensable prerequisite for the full and timely deployment of MINURSO-formed military units 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;

"6. Supports the intention of MINURSO to start publishing the provisional list of voters by 1 December 1998, as proposed by the Secretary- General, and supports also the proposed increase in staff of the Identification Commission from 18 to 25 members, and the increase also in the necessary support personnel, in order to strengthen the Commission and enable it to continue working with utmost rigour and impartiality with a view to keeping to the proposed timetable;

"7. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council by 11 December 1998 on the implementation of this resolution and on the progress of the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the parties, and to keep the Council regularly informed of all significant developments and, as appropriate, on the continuing viability of the mandate of MINURSO;

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

Report of Secretary-General

When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (document S/1998/997). In the report, the Secretary-General recommends that the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 1999 and makes a series of proposals which would require adjusting the timetable for the referendum.

The Secretary-General says the continuing deadlock on moving towards completion of the referendum is due primarily to the inability of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y del Rio de Oro (Frente Polisario) to compromise on the issue of tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52.

(The Frente POLISARIO has asked MINURSO to include, in the Tindouf area 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 chosen not to participate in their identification until the eligibility of some 65,000 applicants from the three groups is resolved.


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Morocco maintains that all 65,000 applicants have the right to be identified to determine their eligibility to vote.)

Because of the apparent deadlock, the Secretary-General has decided to present his own arbitration. He explains that the Commission's mandate to update the 1974 census includes removing from the lists the names of persons who have since died, and considering applications from persons who claim the right to participate in the referendum because they are Western Saharans and were omitted from the 1974 census.

The United Nations is adhering to the principle that any registered applicant from any tribal grouping who meets any of the identification criteria is entitled to have his or her name included in the list of voters, according to the report. On that basis, the Secretary-General asks the Identification Commission to now consider requests from any applicants from the tribal groupings in question who wish to present themselves individually, to verify whether they have the right to vote.

The Secretary-General stresses that the Moroccan Government and the Frente POLISARIO will have to agree that they will not directly or indirectly sponsor or present for identification anyone from these tribal groupings, although they will not be obligated to actively prevent such individuals from presenting themselves. The Members of the Identification Commission will have to continue examining applications with the utmost rigour and impartiality.

Since this supplementary identification operation will prolong the Identification Commission's programme of work, the Secretary-General also proposes that the appeals process be launched simultaneously so as not to postpone the referendum too long.

The holding of the referendum, he says, will depend on measures taken to facilitate the return of refugees declared eligible to vote, together with their immediate family members, and on the conditions in which that repatriation takes place. The parties would need to agree to the proposed protocols by mid-November 1998 so that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) can prepare to receive refugees in the Territory and so that identification of applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52 wishing to present themselves individually, as well as the appeals process, can begin on 1 December 1998. That is also the date scheduled for publication of the provisional list of voters other than those in the three groupings. The Secretary-General stresses the importance of formalizing the UNHCR's presence in the Territory.

To implement the proposed programme, the Secretary-General recommends that the Commission be gradually enlarged from 18 to 25 members, and that the necessary support personnel also be increased, so as to keep to the proposed timetable.


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He states that strict adherence to the new deadlines can be ensured only if the parties cooperate unreservedly in the implementation of the proposed programme and if the Council provides MINURSO in good time with the necessary administrative, financial and human resources.

The Secretary-General notes that the Moroccan Government and the Frente POLISARIO have stated their intention to cooperate actively with MINURSO in implementing his proposals. Moreover, the Algerian and Mauritanian Governments have indicated their full support. He will submit recommendations regarding the full deployment of MINURSO, including the deployment of additional military and police personnel, in December 1998.

The Secretary-General emphasizes that the various texts which he has submitted to the Moroccan Government, the Frente POLISARIO and the Algerian and Mauritanian Governments for their consideration will have to be finally accepted within the next few days. He expects all these documents to be initialled by the time he next travels to the region. (The Secretary-General is scheduled to visit the Magreb region from 7-16 November.)

Should the Council decide to extend the mandate of MINURSO, the cost of maintaining the Mission would be limited to the monthly rate of $5.4 million gross, the report states.

The MINURSO -- known by its French acronym -- was established by resolution 658 (1990), by 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.

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