28/10/2004
Press Release
SC/8232


Security Council

5068th Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL, UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1570 (2004),

 

EXTENDS MANDATE OF WESTERN SAHARAMISSION UNTIL 30 APRIL 2005


The Security Council, reiterating its call on the parties and States of the region to cooperate fully with the United Nations to end the current impasse in Western Sahara, today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2005.


Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 1570 (2004), the Council asked that the Secretary-General provide a report on the situation before the end of the mandate period and an interim report, within three months from adoption of this resolution, on the evolution of the situation and on the Mission’s size and concept of operation, with further detail on the options discussed in his report of 20 October (document S/2004/827) on the possible reduction of MINURSO staff, including civilian and administrative personnel.


According to the Secretary-General’s report, the first option would be to maintain the status quo, that is, 203 military observers working out of nine team sites on both sides of the buffer strip, with two sector headquarters at Smara and Dakhla, the force headquarters at Laayoune, and at the MINURSO Liaison Office at Tindouf, Algeria, supported by the medical unit.


The second option, which would involve several steps, would result in an overall reduction of 37 observers, representing 16 per cent of the current strength, bringing to 193 the Mission’s total military strength.  While the number of ground patrols and liaison visits would correspondingly decrease, this option would allow MINURSO to continue to monitor the ceasefire, report violations and maintain daily liaison with the parties, albeit at a reduced level.  It would have no major implications for MINURSO logistics or civilian support requirements.


Further to today’s resolution, the Council called on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures that allowed for increased person-to-person contact, particularly the exchange of family visits.


The meeting began at 3:12 p.m. and adjourned at 3:15 p.m.


Council Resolution


The full text of resolution 1570 (2004) reads, as follows:


“The Security Council,


Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara, including resolution 1495 (2003) of 31 July 2003 and resolution 1541 (2004) of 29 April 2004,

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,


Reiterating its call upon the parties and States of the region to continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,


Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 20 October (S/2004/827),


“1.   Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2005;


“2.   Requests that the Secretary-General provide a report on the situation before the end of the mandate period and an interim report, within three months from adoption of the resolution, on the evolution of the situation and on the mission’s size and concept of operation, with further detail on the options discussed in the Secretary-General’s report of 20 October 2004 (S/2004/827) on the possible reduction of MINURSO staff, including civilian and administrative personnel;


“3.   Calls on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund Confidence Building Measures that allow for increased person-to-person contact, in particular the exchange of family visits;


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


Background


The Security Council met to consider the situation in Western Sahara, for which it had before it the latest report of the Secretary-General (document S/2004/827), covering developments since April, when there was no agreement between the parties on the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara.  Such an agreement, the Secretary-General says, “appears more distant today”.  Moreover, there is currently no agreement as to what can be done to overcome the existing deadlock.  He recommends that the Council consider extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for a further six months, until 30 April 2005


He says that the goal of enabling the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination, thus, remains elusive.  He will continue to look for opportunities to advance that goal.  Meanwhile, he registers his “deep concern” about the recent escalation in public rhetoric emanating from the parties and the region, and urges them to exercise the utmost restraint.


On a positive note, he says that the agreement for the renewal of the family visits is a welcome sign.  He urges the parties to continue cooperating with his Special Representative, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and MINURSO for the smooth implementation of confidence-building measures, as well as for their expansion to new activities.  However, the continuation of such measures requires swift and generous contributions from donor countries.


The Secretary-General joins the UNHCR in appealing again to donor countries for additional funding necessary for the continuation of the confidence-building measures programme, which requires a great deal of logistical, monitoring and administrative resources.  He, meanwhile, appeals again to the Frente POLISARIO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro) to release all Moroccan prisoners of war that it continues to hold, and to both Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO to continue to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in accounting for those who are still missing in relation to the conflict.


The appearance in the heavily mined buffer strip of clandestine migrants, groups of whom occasionally remain stranded there without proper subsistence for a long period of time, is a matter of growing concern, the report says.  This is part of a much broader phenomenon of trafficking in human beings through the region.  He brings this issue to the Council’s attention because of the fact that it occurs in the area of operations of MINURSO, which has neither the mandate nor the resources to deal with it.  The Secretariat is reviewing this development with the UNHCR and the International Organization of Migration (IOM), and the Secretary-General calls on the parties and Member States to cooperate in taking the steps necessary to address this issue, on humanitarian grounds.


The report finds that the effective monitoring of the ceasefire between the parties by MINURSO over the last 13 years has been a major stabilizing and confidence-building achievement.  Both parties have acknowledged the invaluable role the Mission has played in this respect.  The MINURSO Force Commander has consulted both Moroccan and Frente POLISARIO military authorities for the possible reduction of the overall strength of the Mission’s military component.  Both have expressed their strong preference that there should be no reduction in the size of the Mission, especially at this time.


The Mission’s military component, as currently structured and staffed, provides an “essential element” of confidence-building and conflict management in Western Sahara, and no reduction should come at the expense of the capacity and credibility of the United Nations operational and political role, the Secretary-General states.  Should the Council, nonetheless, decide to reduce the Mission’s strength, he strongly believes that any reduction beyond the configuration outlined under option 2 in paragraphs 38 to 40 of the report would adversely affect the role of the United Nations.


[Option 2 in paragraphs 38 to 40 would involve several steps, including closing the Dakhla and Smara sector headquarters, which are currently staffed by 11 military observers each, and transferring their responsibilities to the force headquarters at Laayoune.  While this would reduce the overall military staff requirement, the force headquarters at Laayoune -- given the additional responsibilities it would have to perform -- would be augmented by six additional military officers with experience in personnel, logistics, operations and planning.]


The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that both parties and neighbouring States will use this time to cooperate in good faith with his Special Representative to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.


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