14 May 1999


Press Release
SC/6676



SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MINURSO UNTIL 14 SEPTEMBER

19990514

The Security Council tonight decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 14 September in order to resume the identification process, start the appeals process and conclude all outstanding agreements needed to implement the Settlement Plan.

By unanimously adopting resolution 1238 (1999), the Council reaffirmed the rights of the applicants, with the expectation that the appeals process will not be turned into a second round of identification.

The Secretary-General was requested to report every 45 days on significant developments in the implementation of the Settlement Plan, focusing in particular on issues which will form the basis of the Council's consideration of a further extension of the mandate of MINURSO.

Those include full and unequivocal cooperation of the parties during the resumption of voter identification and during the start of the appeals process; agreement by the Government of Morocco on the modalities of implementing paragraph 42 of the Status of Forces Agreement; agreement of the parties on the protocol relating to refugees; and confirmation that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is fully operational in the region.

The Council further requested the Secretary-General to submit to it a revised timetable and financial implications for the holding of the referendum. It also requested the UNHCR to provide the Security Council with recommendations for confidence-building measures and timelines for their implementation.

In addition, the Council supported the proposed increase in staff of the Identification Commission from 25 to 30 members, as well as the proposed increase in the necessary support activities.


The meeting was called to order at 11:30 p.m. and adjourned at 11:34 p.m.

Resolution Adopted

The full text of resolution 1238 (1999) reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

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

"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 27 April 1999 (S/1999/483 and Add.1) and the observations and recommendations contained therein,

"Welcoming also the acceptance by the Government of Morocco and the POLISARIO Front of the detailed modalities for the implementation of the Secretary-General's package of measures relating to the identification of voters, the appeals process and the revised implementation timetable as a good foundation for the completion of this phase of the Settlement Plan and taking note of their respective letters (S/1999/554 and S/1999/555),

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 14 September 1999 in order to resume the identification process, start the appeals process and conclude all outstanding agreements needed to implement the Settlement Plan, and reaffirms the rights of the applicants, with an expectation that the appeals process will not be turned into a second round of identification;

"2. Supports the proposed increase in staff of the Identification Commission from 25 to 30 members, and the proposed increase also in the necessary support activities, in order to strengthen the Commission and enable it to continue working with full authority and independence, in accordance with its mandate as authorized by the Security Council, and to accomplish its tasks expeditiously;

"3. Requests the Secretary-General to report every 45 days on significant developments in the implementation of the Settlement Plan, in particular on the following issues which will form, inter alia, the basis of its consideration of a further extension of the mandate of MINURSO; full and unequivocal cooperation of the parties during the resumption of voter identification and during the start of the appeals process; agreement by the Government of Morocco on the modalities of implementing paragraph 42 of the Status of Forces Agreement; agreement of the parties on the protocol relating to refugees; and confirmation that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is fully operational in the region;


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"4. Requests also the UNHCR to provide the Security Council with recommendations for confidence-building measures and timelines for their implementation;

"5. Requests further the Secretary-General to submit to the Council a revised timetable and financial implications for the holding of the referendum for the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara in accordance with the Settlement Plan and the agreements with the parties for its implementation;

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

Report of Secretary-General

When the Security Council met tonight, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (document S/1999/483 of 27 April and Add.1 of 13 May), recommending an extension of the mandate of MINURSO to 30 October. The report covers developments since the Secretary-General's previous report of 22 March (document S/1999/307).

The MINURSO became operational in September 1991 to assist in preparations for a referendum by which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. Preparations include the completion of an electoral register, complicated by differences over the rights of certain applicants to be identified as potential voters. The Mission's mandate has been extended while parties negotiate on the protocols for identification and on the calendar for implementation.

The report states that the key provisions of the United Nations package designed to accelerate the referendum process are as follows: the initiation of the appeals process for already identified applicants at the same time as the identification of remaining applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52 wishing to present themselves individually; the effective formalization of the presence of the UNHCR in the Territory to allow preparation 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.

During the Secretary-General's visit to the region late in 1998, the report states, the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) formally accepted the United Nations package, while Morocco expressed concerns and sought clarifications about key provisions. Following several rounds of consultations with the United Nations, the Government of Morocco accepted the package in principle, on the understanding that certain amendments would be incorporated in the identification and appeals protocols, and that operational directives, together with a revised


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timetable, would be provided to the parties by MINURSO. The Government of Morocco suggested the resumption of identification in May 1999, the start of the appeals process in June and the holding of the referendum in March 2000.

According to the report, the Secretary-General's Acting Special Representative, Robin Kinloch, held consultations on the package with the Coordinator of the Frente POLISARIO, Emhamed Khaddad, on 28 March, and with Morocco's Minister of the Interior, Driss Basri, and other Moroccan officials on 8 and 9 April. The amended protocols on identification and appeals, as well as detailed operational directives for implementation of those protocols, were then communicated to the parties on 9 April. Following extensive discussions between the United Nations and the two parties, held at Headquarters from 12 to 23 April, those documents, as well as an outline calendar, were finalized and transmitted to the parties on 26 April.

The report states that the amended protocols and the operational directives provide for the resumption of identification work on 1 June and its completion (subject to later confirmation by Morocco that it will provide two sheiks for the identification of H61 Ait Ousa tribe applicants) in November and for the start of the appeals process on 1 July and its completion by February 2000. In the revised outline calendar for the referendum process, it is envisaged that, with the continuing cooperation of both parties, the transition period could begin in February 2000, with a view to holding the referendum in July 2000.

According to the report, the Secretary-General is encouraged by the recent progress in discussions between UNHCR and Morocco on preparatory activities for the return of refugees. He trusts that the Frente POLISARIO will cooperate with UNHCR to enable the agency to resume its pre-registration exercise in the two remaining camps at Tindouf. The consultations between UNHCR and Morocco have already led to formal arrangements for the agency's installation in the Territory. More recently, UNHCR began consultations with Morocco on the finalization of the protocol governing planning for refugee repatriation, and it will shortly do so with the Frente POLISARIO.

The Secretary-General welcomes the military agreements reached between MINURSO and the two parties on the demarcation of mines and unexploded ordnance, which both sides have begun to implement in cooperation with MINURSO. He looks forward to the early conclusion of an arrangement regarding the implementation of the status-of-forces agreement between the United Nations and Morocco concerning the carriage of weapons and related items.

According to the report, the timely implementation of the revised outline calendar for the referendum process is predicated upon such critical assumptions as: Security Council authorization to begin preparations in July 1999 for the full deployment of MINURSO troops; the total cooperation of


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the parties in the identification of individual applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52, so as to avoid the delays and interruptions experienced in the past; the expectation that the appeals process will not be turned into a second round of identification for all applicants found ineligible; the completion by the end of 1999 of planning arrangements for repatriation; the deployment of formed military units, additional military observers and civilian police by January 2000; the reduction and confinement of troops on both sides; the demining of repatriation routes; the proclamation of a general amnesty; and a repatriation process that is completed within 16 weeks -- considerably shorter than UNHCR's current estimates.

An addendum to the report (document S/1999/483/Add.1) contains the text of the five documents transmitted by the Secretary-General to Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO. The documents are entitled: Protocol on the identification of the remaining individual applications from candidates belonging to tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52; Operational directives for the identification of the remaining individual applications from candidates belonging to tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52; Appeals process for the referendum in Western Sahara; Operational directives for the implementation of the appeals process; and Time-frame for the implementation of the Settlement Plan.

The addendum refers to a 7 May letter addressed to the Secretary-General by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco. In the letter, the Moroccan Government informs the Secretary-General of its official position concerning the modalities proposed in the above-mentioned documents. A letter dated 28 April from its Secretary-General sets forth the position of the Frente POLISARIO regarding the proposed modalities. The content of the letters (documents S/1999/554 and S/1999/555) has been brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council, the report states.

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