29/04/2004
Press Release
SC/8077



Security Council                                           

4957th Meeting (AM)                                         


Security Council extends un mission for referendum

 

in western sahara until 31 october


Resolution 1541 (2004) Adopted Unanimously


Extending the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) through 31 October, the Security Council this morning requested the Secretary-General to provide, before the end of that mandate, an evaluation of the Mission size needed, with a view towards its possible reduction.


As it unanimously adopted resolution 1541 (2004), the Council also reaffirmed its support for the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara as an optimum solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties, and called upon all the parties and States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in their efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute.


The meeting, which was called to order at 10:15 a.m., was adjourned at  10:17 a.m.


Council Resolution


The full text of resolution 1541 (2004) reads, as follows:


The Security Council,


Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara, and reaffirming, in particular, resolution 1495 (2003) of 31 July 2003,


Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect,


Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 23 April 2004 (S/2004/325),


“1.   Reaffirms its support for the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara as an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties;



“2.   Reaffirms also its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in order to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara;


“3.   Calls upon all the parties and the States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy;


“4.   Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2004;


“5.   Requests that the Secretary-General provide a report on the situation before the end of the present mandate and requests the Secretary-General to include in this report an evaluation of the mission size necessary for MINURSO to carry out its mandated tasks, with a view towards its possible reduction;


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


Background


The United Nations has been seeking a settlement in Western Sahara since withdrawal of Spain in 1976 and ensuing fighting between Morocco, which had “reintegrated” the Territory, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO), supported by Algeria.


In 1985, the United Nations Secretary-General, in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU), initiated a mission of good offices leading to the “the settlement proposals”, which were approved by the Council in 1990 along with the outline of a plan for implementing them.  The Plan provided for a transitional period, during which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would have sole and exclusive responsibility over all matters relating to a referendum, in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco.


The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established in 1991, and its Identification Commission in May 1993.  Today, although the identification process has been completed, the parties continue to hold divergent views regarding the appeals process, the repatriation of refugees and other crucial aspects of the Plan.


The Council had before it a report by the Secretary-General (document S/2004/325 and Add.1) covering the events since January this year.  The document recalls that the latest peace plan –- referred to in today’s text as the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara –- was submitted by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, James Baker III, in January last year.  It provides for self-determination –- the status of which would be determined by a referendum –- four to five years after the signing of the plan by the interested parties, the neighbouring countries of Algeria and Mauritania.  In March 2003, the Frente POLISARIO and the Kingdom of Morocco made known their objections to the Peace Plan, but later on, in July, the Frente POLISARIO officially accepted it.


During the meeting with James Baker, Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, on 15 April 2004, Morocco delivered its final response to the Plan, which would require the parties involved to agree to negotiate a solution for Western Sahara based on “autonomy within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty”.


In his observations on the current situation, the Secretary-General states that it is clear from past actions by the Security Council and its debates on this issue that there is opposition to a non-consensual solution to the conflict over Western Sahara.  The issue of sovereignty is, of course, the fundamental issue, which has divided the parties for all these years.  Morocco rejects any discussion of any proposal to divide the Territory and it also now does not accept essential elements of the Peace Plan.  The Frente POLISARIO had rejected the draft framework agreement, but has expressed a willingness to agree to work towards several options, which Morocco rejects.


In the view of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, one of the two options for the Security Council to consider is to terminate MINURSO and return the issue of Western Sahara to the General Assembly.  That would constitute an acknowledgement that, after the passage of more than 13 years, the United Nations was not going to solve the problem of Western Sahara without requiring that one or both of the parties do something that they would not voluntarily agree to do.


Option two would be to try once again to get the parties to work towards acceptance and implementation of the Peace Plan.  In order to provide the necessary time for the parties to work with each other and with the United Nations towards acceptance and implementation of the Peace Plan, the Secretary-General recommends that the mandate of MINURSO be extended until 28 February 2005.


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