17 December 1998


Press Release
SC/6612



SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MISSION IN WESTERN SAHARA UNTIL 31 JANUARY 1999

19981217
Resolution 1215 (1998), Adopted Unanimously, Allows For Further Consultations on Secretary-General's Proposals for Settlement Implementation

The Security Council, acting on the recommendation of the Secretary- General, this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 January 1999.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1215 (1998), the Council said the extension would allow for further consultations on the Secretary-General's proposed package of proposals intended to move forward implementation of the Settlement Plan, without undermining the integrity of the package or calling into question its main elements.

The key provisions of the package include: initiation of the appeals process for already identified applicants at the same time as the identification of applicants from certain tribal groupings wishing to present themselves individually; formalization of the presences of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the territory; a revised schedule, under which the transitional period would start in June - July 1999 and the referendum would be held in December 1999. The Settlement Plan, among other things, provides for the organization and the conduct of a referendum under the auspices of the United Nations, in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Also by the resolution, the Council called upon the parties -- the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el- Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) -- and the interested States to sign as soon as possible the proposed refugee repatriation protocol with UNHCR. It urged the Government of Morocco to formalize the presence of UNHCR in Western Sahara and requested 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.

The Council also urged the Government of Morocco to promptly sign a status-of-forces agreement with the Secretary-General, as an indispensable condition for the full and timely deployment of MINURSO-formed military units.


It also recalled that, pending its conclusion, the model status-of-forces agreement should apply provisionally. Further, the Council requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council by 22 January 1999 on the implementation of the present resolution, and on the Settlement Plan, as well as agreements reached between the parties. It further requested him to keep the Council regularly informed of all significant developments including, as appropriate, a reassessment by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy of the continuing viability of the mandate of MINURSO.

The meeting, which was convened at 3:30 p.m., was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 1215 (1998) reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling all its previous resolutions on the question of the Western Sahara, and reaffirming in particular resolution 1204 (1998) of 30 October 1998,

"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 11 December 1998 (S/1998/1160) and the observations and recommendations contained therein,

"Noting the stated position of the Government of Morocco, and welcoming the formal acceptance by the POLISARIO Front to implement the package of measures contained in paragraph 2 of the report of the Secretary-General, in order to move forward with the implementation of the Settlement Plan,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 January 1999 to allow for further consultations in the hope that those consultations will lead to agreement on the various protocols without undermining the integrity of the Secretary-General's proposed package or calling into question its main elements;

"2. Notes, in this regard, that the implementation of the Secretary- General's proposal to launch simultaneously the identification and appeals processes, could clearly demonstrate the willingness of the parties to accelerate the referendum process, in accordance with the wishes they have publicly expressed in recent months;

"3. Calls upon the parties and the interested States to sign as soon as possible the proposed refugee repatriation protocol with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), urges the Government of Morocco to formalize the presence of the UNHCR in the Territory, and requests


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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;

"4. Urges the Government of Morocco promptly to sign a status-of- forces agreement with the Secretary-General as an indispensable condition for the full and timely deployment of MINURSO-formed military units and recalls that pending the conclusion of such agreement, 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. Notes that the contracts of the majority of the Identification Commission staff will expire by the end of December 1998, and that future extensions will depend on the prospects for resuming the identification work in the immediate future and on the decisions the Security Council will take concerning the mandate of MINURSO;

"6. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council by 22 January 1999 on the implementation of this resolution and on the progress in the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the parties, and further requests him to keep the Council regularly informed of all significant developments including, as appropriate, a reassessment by the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General of the continuing viability of the mandate of MINURSO;

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

Secretary-General's Report

As the Council met this afternoon, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document S/1998/1160), in which he recommends that the mandate of United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) be extended until 31 January 1999. The extension will allow for further consultations on a package of proposals intended to move forward implementation of the Settlement Plan, without undermining the integrity of that package or calling into question the main elements of the draft protocols. Should the prospects for completing the identification process remain uncertain by that time, the Secretary-General would revert to the Security Council and ask his Personal Envoy to reassess the situation and the viability of the mandate of MINURSO.

In his previous report of 26 October, the Secretary-General indicated that, since the deadlock over the identification process was due primarily to the inability of the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) to reach a compromise on the issue of tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52, he had decided to present his own arbitration package. The key provisions of that


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package were: the initiation of the appeals process for already identified applicants at the same time as the identification of applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52 wishing to present themselves individually; the effective formalization of the presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Territory, to prepare for the repatriation of refugees and other Saharans residing outside the Territory who are eligible to vote, together with their immediate families; and a revised schedule, under which the transitional period would start in June-July 1999 and the referendum would be held in December 1999, provided that the parties cooperate fully.

The measures to be taken have been detailed in a set of documents, which include: a draft protocol on the identification of those applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52 wishing to present themselves individually; a draft protocol on the appeals process; a memorandum on the activities of UNHCR in the region; and a calendar outlining the next stages of the Settlement Plan. In addition, a draft protocol prepared in close consultation with UNHCR, containing detailed provisions on the necessary preparation for the repatriation of refugees and other Saharans residing outside the Territory who are eligible to vote, together with their immediate families, was submitted to Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, and to Algeria and Mauritania, early in November 1998.

The Secretary-General had also proposed that the package of measures be adopted and put into effect by 1 December 1998 and that all the related documents be initialled during his trip to the region. While the package was formally accepted by the Frente POLISARIO and received the full support of Algeria and Mauritania, the Moroccan authorities are seeking clarifications on some provisions of the draft protocols, with a view to taking a formal decision on the package presented by the United Nations.

According to the Secretary-General's report, the identification of applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52 has been a constant source of contention between the parties and the subject of three recent compromise proposals. One was accepted by the parties as part of the Houston agreements (S/1997/742, annex III). A second compromise proposal was offered by the Secretary-General in his report of 15 January 1998 (S/1998/35, para. 10). The third is contained in the current package.

In view of the concerns expressed by Morocco, the Secretary-General confirms that the proposed measures will entitle all applicants both to an initial identification hearing and to be part of a just and comprehensive process of appeals. In any event, the final list of voters would be published only after the end of the appeals process for applicants from all tribal groupings.


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The Secretary-General states that the effective formalization of the presence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Territory and the conclusion of the refugee repatriation protocol are essential to beginning, in the pre-transition period, the confidence-building activities necessary to ensure the return of the refugees in safety and in dignity, in accordance with the Settlement Plan. He hopes that the draft protocol can be agreed upon and signed by Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, and by Algeria and Mauritania, on the occasion of a visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to the region early in 1999. Pre-registration activities in the refugee camps should also resume without further delay.

The general timetable set out in the calendar presented with the package of measures should also be accepted as a basis for MINURSO operations in the immediate future, the report says. It is also essential that the Government of Morocco sign promptly the status-of-forces agreement on MINURSO.

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