Deadlock in Western Sahara

 

Politically, 2006 proved to be another frustratingly “uneventful” year for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), with continuing deadlock in the search for a lasting political solution to the long-standing conflict.

 

Marked by the mission’s focus on fairness, firmness and impartiality, the Government of Morocco and the Frente Polisario have generally allowed MINURSO to assist them in maintaining the ceasefire. However, their positions remain far apart and all recent efforts by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, to initiate direct negotiations between them have been unsuccessful.

 

Meanwhile, MINURSO has undergone significant change allowing it to improve its organizational structure and strengthen its operational output. By closing the two sector headquarters in late 2005, it became possible to reinforce the nine team sites with more UN military observers to carry out the mission’s first night operations.Additional day patrols have brought the increase to 30-40 per cent compared to earlier years.

 

The introduction of night operations in areas heavily infested with unexploded ordnance (UXO) led to the creation of aMine Action Centre (MAC).Aimed at improving the safety of the mission and the populations living in – and returning to – its area of operation and responsibility, the MAC has organized mine risk education in the refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. It is also in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Mauritanian authorities to facilitate mine clearance activities along the border of Western Sahara with Mauritania and to pursue regional mine-awareness programmes.

 

MINURSO´s support for the Confidence- Building Measures (CBM) programme of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continued with some interruptions during the year. The CBM flights bring families together from the refugee camps in Tindouf and the Moroccancontrolled part of Western Sahara, some of whom have not seen each other for almost 30 years.

 

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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

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