8/10/2004
Press Release
GA/SPD/288


Fifty-ninth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

6th Meeting (PM)


MOROCCO INVITES ALGERIA TO ENTER INTO DIRECT DIALOGUE ON WESTERN SAHARA,


AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONCLUDES DISCUSSION OF DECOLONIZATION ISSUES


Morocco invited Algeria to enter into a direct dialogue over Western Sahara, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its general debate on decolonization issues this afternoon.


Maintaining that Algeria was a party to the regional conflict and not just an observer, he said it had tried to thwart the framework agreement James Baker, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, had proposed in June 2001, and which had been accepted by Morocco.  He said Mr. Baker believed that the agreement constituted a compromise solution based on autonomy that respected the prerogatives attached to Moroccan sovereignty.


He said that Algeria, by heightening tensions, was only serving to divide Africa, at a time when it was most important that it be united in the face of globalization and other challenges.  Dialogue with that country could prevent the explosion of the region through fratricidal conflicts.  Then the Sahara could serve as a secure bridge between the North and South of the continent, instead of a safe haven for terrorists and criminals.


Morocco’s statement followed a week of debate, in which many Member States and petitioners urged the international community to apply pressure on Morocco to ensure that the referendum on self-determination, part of the Settlement Plan of 1991, be held in Western Sahara as soon as possible.  Today, Zimbabwe’s representative called for immediate compliance with the Baker Peace Plan towards the goal of self-determination of the Saharawi people, while Guinea welcomed the readiness expressed by Morocco to cooperate with the United Nations to settle the dispute through a solution that would result in peace and greater integration in Africa.


As the debate neared its close, most speakers also continued to stress the importance of ending all colonialism before the 2010 term of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.  In that effort, many called for greater cooperation by administering Powers, greater dissemination of information concerning the situations of each Territory, the continuation of regional seminars and an increase in missions by the Special Committee.


In that light, the representative of Timor-Leste paid tribute to the representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, among whose ranks he had been until recently, and recognized the patience of the representatives of Member States who listened to their voices and provided them hope.  He welcomed progress in Tokelau.  In addition, given their common struggle, he said there were natural bonds of solidarity between his people and those of Western Sahara, as they both shared the bitterness of suffering and exile because of common aspirations for freedom and self-determination.  He called on the leaders in the region to work together toward a vision that erased the vestiges of colonialism.


Among other issues raised this afternoon, Pakistan’s representative called for the end of occupation in both Kashmir and Palestine.  As long as those peoples were unable to enjoy the right of self-determination, he said, the Decolonization Declaration would remain unimplemented.


Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of the Congo, Lesotho, Dominica, Bolivia, Botswana, Angola, Burkina Faso, China, Ecuador, Benin and the Sudan.


Algeria and Morocco spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Fourth Committee will meet again on Monday 11 October at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its general debate on decolonization issues.


Statements


LUC JOSEPH OKIO (Congo), noting that the important goal of eradicating colonialism during the Second International Decade seemed elusive, said that to make it possible, the full cooperation of the administering Powers was required, as was international assistance and attention to all human rights principles.  As a start, the resolutions passed by the General Assembly must be implemented.


He said that while the case-by-case approach seemed realistic, it needed follow-up.  It required also that the inhabitants of the Non-Self-Governing Territories know all their options and that the Committee know all the relevant information about their respective cases.  The efforts of the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were noteworthy in that regard and should continue, while United Nations visiting missions to the Territories must become more frequent.


Regarding Western Sahara, he reaffirmed the Congo’s commitment to efforts by the Secretary-General and his representatives.  All parties in the Maghreb who had friendly relations with the Congo should redouble their efforts for a negotiated solution in cooperation with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.


LEBOHANG MOLEKO (Lesotho) said the United Nations had been instrumental in decolonization, but midway through the Second Decade there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The process of decolonizing them had been very slow and, in consequence, their inhabitants had been denied their rights under the United Nations Charter.  Of particular concern was the denial of the right to self-determination of the inhabitants of Western SaharaLesotho supported the decolonization of that Territory through the implementation of the Settlement Plan without delay, including the holding of a free and fair referendum.  The Saharawi people had suffered long enough.


CRISPIN GREGOIRE (Dominica), aligning himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), called for a greater sense of urgency in the decolonization process and more commitment to the implementation of the relevant resolutions and recommendations.  Unless the international community demonstrated a genuine commitment, yet another decade for the eradication of colonialism would have to be proclaimed in 2011.  One of the challenges facing the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories was the inadequacy of relevant information regarding their political options.  If there was to be constitutional and political advancement, a coordinated programme directed at dissemination of unbiased information to the Non-Self-Governing Territories on the various political status options would be absolutely essential.


He went on to say that seminars held by the Special Committee provided great opportunities for the frank exchange of views and a valuable input by the people of the Territories, as well as civil society representatives.  Dominica supported the proposal for a mid-term review of the implementation of the Second International Decade and endorsed also the Special Committee’s idea for a systematic annual review of the implementation of specific recommendations on decolonization emanating from General Assembly resolutions and the Plan of Action of the Second International Decade.  Dominica also supported self-determination for the people of Western Sahara and called for the implementation of the Peace Plan.


ERWIN ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) agreed that there was a need for cooperation by the administering Powers and participation of representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as well as visiting missions.  However, even though half of the Second Decade had passed, and everybody agreed on the necessity to end colonialism, the Committee had not been able to bring the decolonization process to a conclusion.  Despite all available information and legal frameworks, a kind of Gordian knot had been tied.  What obstacles were impeding the process?


Referring to the visiting mission to Tokelau, he said the transparent efforts made by New Zealand should serve as an example.  In order to untie the Gordian knot, it was critical to address the issue of information and political training of the people in Non-Self-Governing Territories.  During the Papua New Guinea seminar, it had been noticed that people from those Territories did not know anything about the available options.  The visiting missions were also very important, and the administering Powers should facilitate them.


JOSE LUIS GUTERRES (Timor-Leste) paid tribute to the representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories among whose ranks he had been until recently, and recognized the patience of the delegates who had listened to their voices and provided them with hope.  There were still 16 Territories too many, and hopefully the Second Decade would continue to call attention to their need for assistance.  Timor-Leste welcomed the progress made by the people of Tokelau and the administering Power, New Zealand, as well as the efforts made by CARICOM to integrate the CaribbeanTerritories into its institutions.  It also welcomed the support to the peoples of the Territories given by Member States and specialized agencies of the United Nations.


He said that given their common struggle, there were natural bonds of solidarity between his people and those of Western Sahara, as they both shared the bitterness of suffering and exile because of their common aspirations for freedom and self-determination.  Concerned by the slow pace of progress toward the self-determination referendum, despite the encouraging developments, such as the release of war prisoners by the Frente POLISARIO and the maintenance of the ceasefire, Timor-Leste looked to the leaders of the region for a vision that would unite the peoples and countries of the Maghreb in order to erase the remaining traces of colonialism there.


ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) expressed satisfaction at taking the floor after the representative of Timor-Leste, who represented a heroic struggle on the part of his people and persistent work on the part of the Special Committee.  There was, however, concern that the remaining 16 Territories would not be able to attain self-determination before the end of the Second International Decade.  In that connection, Angola was concerned over the situation in Western Sahara.  The Settlement Plan and the Peace Plan were a good basis to peacefully resolve the conflict in that Territory.  The parties concerned were encouraged to work together in order to achieve a peaceful resolution of the problem.  The time had come to give the people of Western Sahara the opportunity to enjoy their inalienable right to self-determination.


Turning to other areas, he supported visiting missions of the Special Committee to the Territories and urged full cooperation by the administering Powers in that regard.  Angola also supported further review mechanisms for progress in implementing the relevant General Assembly resolutions.  The United Nations, the European Union and the African Union all had roles to play in assuring adherence to international law in matters of decolonization.


MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that halfway through the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the goal of resolution 1514 (XV) was still far away, as 16 territories remained non-autonomous.  Despite the adoption in 1991 of the Plan of Action for the First Decade, reiterated in the framework of the Second Decade and despite the efforts of the Special Committee, millions of men and women today could not enjoy their right to self-determination.  Clearly, the Organization had to meet that challenge with all possible speed, as the emancipation of the peoples was one of its principle objectives.  He therefore called for strengthening cooperation between the administering Powers and the Organization.


On 31 October, the mandate of United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) would expire, he said.  He thanked the Secretary-General, the President of the African Union and the Security Council for their efforts to reach a settlement of the issue.  However, the report illustrated the breadth of the task to be accomplished.  The sole objective of the Organization should be the establishment of peace in the region.  But no matter how important the role of the United Nations was, the role of the parties was even more important.  He therefore called on the parties to work closely with the Secretary-General and his Special Representative to find a just, lasting and acceptable political solution on the basis of negotiations between all parties.


TARIQ SALIM CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said decolonization was one of the most important responsibilities of the United Nations.  More than 80 colonies had become independent, which was an impressive success.  However, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still awaited decolonization.  It was incumbent on the organization to persevere in a cooperative and pro-active spirit to attain that goal.  He supported the work of the Special Committee and all regional initiatives aimed at furthering the decolonization agenda.  He commended the administering Powers that continued to show cooperation and flexibility.  The positive role of New Zealand regarding Tokelau was a case in point.


Even after independence, colonialism had left a bitter legacy of foreign occupation, conflict and violent confrontation in two regions in the world, he said.  For over half a century, the people of Kashmir and Palestine had endured foreign military occupation and had been denied the exercise of their right of self-determination.  As long as the people of Kashmir and Palestine were unable to enjoy that right, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial countries and Peoples would remain unimplemented.


He said his country was firmly committed to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, through sincere dialogue and confidence-building measures.  The Secretary-General had taken note of “important strides” by India and Pakistan in efforts to improve their relations and resolve outstanding issues.  The President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India had met for the first time in New York on 24 September.  In a joint statement, both leaders had reiterated their commitment to continue the bilateral dialogue to restore normalcy and cooperation between the two countries.  On Jammu and Kashmir, they had “agreed that possible options for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issue should be explored in a sincere spirit and purposeful manner”.


ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that with the support and assistance of the United Nations, historic achievements had been made in the process of decolonization.  However, with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the United Nations list, the job was incomplete.  It was therefore the duty of the United Nations and the international community to bring the process of decolonization to a successful conclusion.


He said the Second International Decade for the Eradication of colonialism had reflected the common aspiration of the Member States for an early conclusion of the decolonization process.  It was the duty of Member States to attach importance to the rights and interests of people of Non-Self-Governing Territories and help them to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.  He looked forward to closer cooperation between the administering Powers and the United Nations.


His country had rendered consistent support to the efforts of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories in exercising their right to self-determination.  He would, as always, participate actively in the United Nations work in that area and closely cooperate with other members of the Committee in its unremitting efforts to fulfil the historic mission.


LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said his country believed in the peaceful settlement of disputes, in human rights and in all other principles of the United Nations Charter.  Based on those principles, it supported decolonization and all resolutions that supported the Declaration of 1960.  The right to self-determination was universal.


In that context, he expressed concern that there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  He supported all initiatives that furthered the improvement of their situations, including the efforts of all specialized United Nations agencies.


KARIMOU ALFA ZERANDOURO (Benin) said that the United Nations had made considerable progress in decolonization, which raised hope that all pending situations would be resolved.  That should come about through serious dialogue among the parties.


The dispute in the Western Sahara was a problem for the Maghreb and its whole region.  Greater efforts needed to be made to ensure progress toward a negotiated solution of the question, in a spirit of dialogue and compromise that took into account both the aspirations of the Saharawi people and the territorial integrity of Morocco.


ANAS ELTAYEB ELGAILANI MUSTAFA (Sudan) said his country had been among the first African countries to support the liberation movements in their efforts to realize independence.  Emphasizing the important role the United Nations had played in that regard, he said there were, however, still regions that had not attained independence.  Since 1961, the Assembly had given the Committee a clear mandate to consider all possible means to implement the Declaration and the Plan of Action of the Second Decade, but much progress had not been seen.


He said efforts should be intensified to convince the administering Powers to cooperate with the Committee and to preserve the resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Economic and military activities in the Territories often had a negative impact on the people living there.  He hoped the administering Powers would respect the provisions of the United Nations Charter and guarantee the progress of all the people under their power and protect their human and natural resources.


The denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and the occupation of Palestine was one of the biggest manifestations of injustice in the world.  The occupying Power, aside from killing people and destroying property, was exploiting Palestinian natural resources.  This happened while the United Nations was helpless, as was clear in the proceedings of Security Council over the last few days, he said.


FRANCIS MUTISI (Zimbabwe) commended the efforts of regional, national and independent organizations towards the achievement of total independence by the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, saying that his country understood colonialism and still suffered from its ill effects.  It was now up to the administering Powers to make further progress and some were indeed making commendable efforts in that regard.


With respect to Western Sahara, he called on all parties to immediately comply with and implement Security Council resolutions that backed the Baker Peace Plan.  The Saharawi people, like the others in their situation, deserved self-determination.


ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) called on the Special Committee to continue its important work, which had already borne results, and expressed satisfaction over the progress made in Tokelau.  Other administering Powers should step up their cooperation with the Special Committee.


Regarding Western Sahara, he called on the parties to increase their cooperation with the Secretary-General’s representative in working toward a solution that would result in peace and greater integration in AfricaGuinea welcomed the readiness expressed by Morocco to cooperate with the United Nations to settle the dispute.  In addition, Guinea affirmed the importance of regional seminars and visiting missions, and called on the international community to support all efforts by the United Nations towards the promotion of a world of liberty, peace, security and progress.


MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said the regional dispute over the Western Sahara had brought into conflict two neighbouring countries, Morocco and Algeria, despite their bonds of fraternity.  Despite the fact that his country had supported Algeria in its struggle for independence, that country had created obstacles to counter the peaceful process in which Morocco was engaged in pursuit of its territorial integrity.  Dismembered by European colonial powers, Morocco had initiated the process of recovery through negotiation of territories lying south of the country, which had been under Spanish occupation, namely Tarfay in 1958, Sidi Ifni in 1969 and finally the Sahara in 1975.


He said Algeria had submitted a proposal for partition of the Sahara to James Baker, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, in November 2001 in Houston, United States.  The partition proposal was aimed at thwarting the framework agreement Mr. Baker had proposed in June 2001, and which had been accepted by Morocco.  Mr. Baker believed that the agreement constituted a compromise solution based on autonomy that respected the prerogatives attached to Moroccan sovereignty.


He said Morocco had spared no efforts to improve its relations with Algeria.  He was confident that a better climate for bilateral relations would in the long run be conducive to settling all outstanding disputes, including that of the Sahara.  Regrettably, despite all good-will gestures, Morocco had been rebuffed by Algeria.  Still, there was reason for optimism.  Peace had been maintained by virtue of the United Nations and its mission on the ground.  The Security Council had undertaken efforts to attain an acceptable resolution.  Morocco had submitted its comments and final response to the Baker Plan, in which it had underscored the aspects of the plan it deemed unacceptable and emphasized its readiness to negotiate on a final autonomy status.


Following the resignation of Mr. Baker, he continued, the Secretary-General had mandated the new Special Representative Alvaro De Soto to continue the work of political mediation with the parties and neighbouring States to achieve a final and mutually acceptable solution.  The mandate of the special Representative having been enlarged, the General Assembly should support his actions.  However, Algeria had tried to call that decision into question.  It was inconceivable that a country, which had introduced itself as an observer to a process of political settlement, had decided to boycott the Special Representative.


There was no point in heightening tensions, he said.  It was high time to put an end to the dangerous game that had only served to divide the African continent through fratricidal conflicts and to weaken Africa at a time it needed to face the challenges posed by globalization, underdevelopment and epidemics.  It was time for group-building.  Specific claims were guaranteed by the exercise by the population within the framework of respect for existing sovereignty.  Morocco was ready to enter into dialogue with Algeria, a dialogue that sought to avoid, at all costs, the explosion of the entire region.  Nowadays, the region had become a safe haven for terrorist and criminal movements.


As the Secretary-General had called upon all parties and neighbouring States to work with the United Nations in order to speed up the finding of a political solution to the Sahara dispute, he said his country declared solemnly that it would respond positively to that appeal and would resolutely engage, at the right time, in the negotiation of a final and mutually acceptable political solution by all the parties concerned.  Morocco would be flexible, but could not yield on international legality.


Right of Reply


ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Moroccan delegate’s statement was surrealistic and tragic-comic.  However, it was consistent with the pathetic memorandum of his Government.  The truth was that Morocco was illegally occupying a Territory and no one had ever officially recognized Morocco’s claim to that Territory.  The claims of cooperation were belied by the Secretary-General’s report.  After all, Morocco had accepted and then rejected the Settlement Plan and all subsequent agreements.


He asked how Morocco could claim sovereignty over Western Sahara when it was afraid of holding a referendum in that Territory.  The Saharawi were living in refugee camps because their land had been invaded by Moroccan forces, and they had been forced out of the richest part of that land because of the wall built by Morocco.


Regarding the question of Algeria being one of the parties involved in the dispute, he said it was clear that the parties that had signed all agreements were Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO.  The issue was that Morocco had lost all credibility with the international community because of its rejection of all the plans that it had previously agreed to.  Morocco should simply implement the Peace Plan that had already been agreed upon.


He expressed scepticism over Morocco’s regrets for the resignation of James Baker as he had heard reports that the Moroccans had celebrated.  Western Sahara was one of many diplomatic issues with which Algeria was concerned, while Morocco was only concerned with the question of Western Sahara.


Mr. BENNOUNA (Morocco), also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the fact that Algeria was the only one to reply to his statement proved that it was a party to the dispute.  The denial of that fact exhibited schizophrenia.  Morocco urged Algeria to end the game that had been going on since the 1960s.  The Algerian delegate had not denied the arguments presented to him.  Morocco did not need the recognition of others when it had its rights, and when the whole dispute had been artificially created by Algeria.


The representative of Algeria said the representative of Morocco was clearly out of touch and he did not want to add to his distress.


The representative of Morocco said the fact that the representative of Algeria had not responded meant that he had exhausted his arguments.


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