Urging good faith dialogue, Security Council extends mission in Western Sahara

30 April 2007 – Calling upon Morocco and the Polisario Front to jump start long-stalled discussions in “good faith,” the Security Council today extended the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara by six months.

Resolution 1754, adopted unanimously, requests that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to sponsor negotiations between the two sides, and calls on the parties to make strides towards “achieving a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”

The 15-member body also invites Member States to provide assistance in organizing these negotiations.

The Council also calls on Member States to consider funding confidence building measures permitting increased contact between those who have been separated from their families.

The mandate for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, known by its French acronym MINURSO, was set to expire today, but has been extended to 31 October. Established in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front and organize a referendum on self-determination, it has been renewed in subsequent resolutions of the Council.

Today’s resolution also emphasized the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, and requested Mr. Ban to continue taking the measures necessary to ensure MINURSO’s full compliance.

Earlier this month, Mr. Ban issued a report which stated that although the overall situation between the two sides has remained “generally calm,” MINURSO is still needed to monitor the ceasefire between the parties.

In the report, he urged both sides to resolve the impasse through negotiations “without preconditions.” In addition, he called attention to the plight of Western Saharan refugees and urged the international community to help them, while also appealing to all parties to respect the human rights of the people of Western Sahara and continue to work with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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