27/02/2001
Press Release
SC/7020



Security Council

4284th Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 30 APRIL,

UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1342 (2001)


The Security Council this morning unanimously decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2001, by adopting resolution 1342(2001).


The mandate was extended with the expectation that the parties, the Government of Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO, under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, would continue to try to resolve multiple problems relating to the implementation of the Western Sahara Settlement Plan and try to agree upon a mutually acceptable political solution to their dispute over Western Sahara.


The Council also requested the Secretary-General to provide an assessment of the situation in the Territory before the end of the present mandate.


Before the close of the meeting, Saïd Ben Mustapha (Tunisia), Council President for February, thanked all who had supported the Council’s work during his presidency, called on the Council to continue to listen to Africa, and paid special tribute to the achievements of the United States representative, Nancy Soderberg, who, he explained, is about to depart from her post.


The meeting commenced at 11:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 11:27 a.m.


Resolution


The complete text of resolution 1342 (2001) reads, as follows:


The Security Council,


Reaffirming all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara, in particular resolutions 1108 (1997) of 22 May, 1292 (2000) of 29 February 2000, 1301 (2000) of 31 May 2000, 1309 (2000) of 25 July 2000 and 1324 (2000) of 30 October 2000, and also its resolution 1308 (2000) of 17 July 2000,


Recalling the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel of 9 December 1994,


Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 20 February 2001 (S/2001/148) and the observations and recommendations contained therein, and expressing full support for the role and work of the Personal Envoy,


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Reiterating full support for the continued efforts exerted by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to implement the Settlement Plan and agreements adopted by the parties to hold a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,


Noting that fundamental differences between the parties over the interpretation of the main provisions of the Settlement Plan remain to be resolved,


“1.   Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2001, with the expectation that the parties, under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, will continue to try to resolve the multiple problems relating to the implementation of the Settlement Plan and try to agree upon a mutually acceptable political solution to their dispute over Western Sahara;


“2.   Requests the Secretary-General to provide an assessment of the situation before the end of the present mandate;


“3.   Decides to remain seized of the matter.”


Report of Secretary-General


The Council had before it a report from the Secretary-General (document S/2001/148) pursuant to resolution 1324 (2000) of 30 October 2000, by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 28 February 2001 in the expectation that the parties would continue to try to agree upon a mutually acceptable political solution to their dispute over Western Sahara.


According to the Secretary-General, the relations between the two parties had deteriorated since his last report on the matter from 25 October 2000, due to the tensions around the January Paris-Dakar rally into Western Sahara.  He could not report any progress towards overcoming the obstacles to the implementation of the Settlement Plan, or towards determining whether the Government of Morocco, as administrative Power in Western Sahara, is prepared to offer or support some devolution of authority for all inhabitants and former inhabitants of the Territory that is genuine, substantial and in keeping with international norms.


The only positive development, he writes, has been the decision by Frente POLISARIO on 14 December 2000 to release 201 Moroccan prisoners of war, more than half of whom had been held for more than 20 years, on humanitarian grounds.  The Secretary-General joins the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in calling for the early repatriation of the remaining 1,481 prisoners of war, many of whom are in poor health after a very long detention.


During the reporting period, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, James A. Baker III, was required to undertake duties in relation to the presidential elections held in the United States.  He recommended that the mandate of MINURSO be extended for a period of two months, until 30 April, in order to see whether the Government of Morocco is prepared to offer or support some devolution of


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governmental authority.  Failing such offer or support, MINURSO will be directed to begin hearing the pending appeals from the identification process on an expedited basis.  Mr. Baker had also advised the Secretary-General that this is the last request that he will support for a mandate extension. 


Background


The Security Council meets today to consider the question of the Western Sahara, as the mandate for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) expires tomorrow, 28 February.


Western Sahara, a Territory on the north-west coast of Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria, was administered by Spain until 1976.  Both Morocco and Mauritania claimed the Territory; those claims were rejected by the International Court of Justice in 1975 and also opposed by the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO), which sought independence.  Fighting between Morocco, which had "reintegrated" the Territory, and the Frente POLISARIO, supported by Algeria, followed Spain’s withdrawal. Mauritania renounced all claims in 1979.


A joint good offices mission by the Secretary-General and the Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) led to a 1988 settlement proposal, providing for a ceasefire and a referendum to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.  The proposal was accepted by both sides.  In 1990, the Security Council approved the Secretary-General’s proposal that a special representative would be responsible for the referendum, assisted by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), and, on 29 April 1991, MINURSO was established.  Among other things, it is mandated to monitor the ceasefire and verify withdrawal and confinement of troops, identify and register qualified voters, and organize and ensure a free and fair referendum and proclaim the results.  According to the Settlement Plan, a referendum in Western Sahara should have taken place in January 1992.


The Council supported the Secretary-General’s suggestion that military observers be deployed in the Territory to verify a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.  Since the deployment of MINURSO in September 1991, the ceasefire has generally held.  The MINURSO began identifying potential voters in August 1994. Progress was slow, and efforts to resolve differences between the parties -- notably over eligibility requirements -- were not successful.  In particular, the eligibility of members of three tribal groups was disputed.


The first part of a provisional voter list was published in 1999 and listed 84,251 eligible voters.  MINURSO’s Identification Commission subsequently received 79,000 appeals against the list.  Following an additional protocol on eligibility, identification from the three contested tribal groups was finished in December 1999, with 2,130 of 51,220 applicants found eligible.  The identification process is now complete, but the parties still hold divergent views regarding appeals, the repatriation of refugees and other crucial aspects of the Settlement Plan.  The Secretary-General has instructed his Special Representative to continue to seek reconciliation.


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