SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MINURSO UNTIL 20 JULY

17 April 1998
SC/6505

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MINURSO UNTIL 20 JULY

17 April 1998

Press ReleaseSC/6505

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF MINURSO UNTIL 20 JULY

19980417 The Security Council this afternoon decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 20 July, in order that MINURSO might proceed with its identification tasks, with the aim of completing the process.

The Council took the action through its unanimous adoption of resolution 1163 (1998), by which it also called upon the parties -- the Government of Morocco and the POLISARIO -- to cooperate constructively with the United Nations, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Identification Commission to complete the identification of voters phase of the settlement plan and the agreements reached for its implementation.

The Council noted the continuing deployment of the engineering units required for demining activities and of the administrative staff required to support the deployment of military personnel. It expressed again its intention to consider positively the request for the remaining additional military and police assets for MINURSO, as soon as the Secretary-General reported that the identification process had reached a stage making the deployment of those assets essential.

The Council called on the Governments of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania to conclude respective status-of-forces agreements with the Secretary-General, and recalled that pending the conclusions of the agreements, the model status-of-forces agreement dated 9 October 1990 should apply provisionally.

The Secretary-General was requested to report every 30 days from the date of the extension on the progress of the implementation of the settlement plan and the agreements reached between the parties, and to keep the Council regularly informed of all significant developments in the interim, and on the continuing viability of MINURSO's mandate.

The 1988 settlement plan provides for a transitional period during which the special representative of the Secretary-General, assisted by MINURSO, would have responsibility over all matters relating to the referendum for self-determination in Western Sahara, including identifying and registering qualified voters.

The meeting, which was called to order at 4:20 p.m., was adjourned at 4:23 p.m.

Text of Resolution

The text of the resolution 1163 (1998) reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling all its previous resolutions on the question of the Western Sahara,

"Reaffirming its full support for the Secretary-General, his Personal Envoy, his Special Representative and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached by the two parties for its implementation, and recalling that under these agreements the responsibility for implementing the identification process lies with the Identification Commission,

"Reiterating its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just and lasting solution to the question of the Western Sahara,

"Reiterating also its commitment to the holding without further delay of a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara in accordance with the Settlement Plan, which has been accepted by the two parties,

"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 13 April 1998 (S/1998/316) and supporting the observations and recommendations contained therein,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 20 July 1998, in order that MINURSO may proceed with its identification tasks, with the aim of completing the process;

"2. Calls upon the parties to cooperate constructively with the United Nations, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Identification Commission established pursuant to the Settlement Plan in order to complete the identification of voters phase of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached for its implementation;

"3. Notes the continuing deployment of the engineering units required for demining activities and of the administrative staff required to support the deployment of military personnel as proposed in annex II of the report of the Secretary-General of 13 November 1997 (S/1997/882), as further described in the recommendations of the report of the Secretary-General of 13 April 1998;

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"4. Expresses again its intention to consider positively the request for the remaining additional military and police assets for MINURSO as proposed in annex II of the report of the Secretary-General of 13 November 1997, as soon as the Secretary-General reports that the identification process has reached a stage which makes the deployment of these assets essential;

"5. Calls on the Governments of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania to conclude respective status-of-forces agreements with the Secretary-General, and recalls that pending the conclusion of such agreements, the model status- of-forces agreement dated 9 October 1990 (A/45/594) should apply provisionally;

"6. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every 30 days from the date of extension of the mandate of MINURSO on the progress of the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the parties, and to keep the Council regularly informed of all significant developments in the interim period, and, as appropriate, on the continuing viability of the mandate of MINURSO;

"7. Decides to remain seized of the matter."

Secretary-General's Report

The Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General (S/1998/316) covering developments in Western Sahara since his letter to the President of the Council dated 19 February (S/1998/142), including the continuing efforts of his Special Representative, Charles Dunbar, and his Personal Envoy, James Baker III, to move the peace process forward. His 19 February letter dealt with the implementation of the settlement plan by the parties -- the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO).

The plan (S/21360 and S/22464 and Corr.1), proposed by the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1988, provides for a transitional period during which the special representative of the Secretary- General, assisted by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), would have responsibility over all matters relating to the referendum, including identifying and registering qualified voters.

In his report, the Secretary-General states that during the months of December 1997 and January 1998, the spirit and pace of the identification process for the referendum for self-determination in Western Sahara generated hope that the target date of completing it by 31 May 1998 could be met. It is, however, now unlikely that the goal would be achieved. The delay is due

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to the slowdown in identification activities in February and March and to the lack of progress in resolving issues linked to the identification of some 65,000 applicants from three tribal groups -- H41, H61 and J51/52. In addition, the climate of mutual mistrust between the parties had not been conducive to expediting and facilitating the task of MINURSO. He expresses concern that the current tensions may increase as completion of the identification process approaches.

The Secretary-General states that it should be possible, taking into account the delay that has occurred, to complete the identification of all applicants from the "non-contested" tribes by the end of July 1998, provided that both parties cooperate fully. However, he asserts that until the outstanding issues concerning applicants from the three "contested" tribal groups are resolved -- and since it is not known for certain how many of the applicants might present themselves -- it is not possible at this stage to specify the time required for completion of the identification process.

The Secretary-General's report notes that as of 3 April, 56,703 applicants to the referendum had been convoked by MINURSO for identification since the resumption of the process last December. With the 60,112 applicants identified during the first phase of the identification process (from August 1994 to December 1995), this brings the total number of persons identified so far to 101,772. Fewer than 60,000 remain to be convoked. In addition, the issue of the 65,000 applicants from the three tribal groups remains to be fully resolved.

The months of May and June will be crucial for determining whether the identification of all the applicants that remain to be convoked can be completed by the end of July and whether a solution can be found to the problem of the tribal groups. The Secretary-General indicates that he would submit in his next report to the Security Council, recommendations for a revised timetable for the full implementation of the settlement plan, including preparatory measures for the establishment of the Referendum Commission if, by the end of June, sufficient progress has been made in the identification process and in the search for solutions to the contentious issue of the tribal groups.

On the other hand, the Secretary-General intends to recommend that the Council reconsider the viability of MINURSO's mandate if no solution has been found to the problem of the three "contested" groups and if a large number of applicants from the "non-contested" tribes also remains to be identified. In the meantime, he recommends that the mandate, which had previously been extended to 20 April, be further extended for a period of three months until 20 July.

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He urges both Morocco and the POLISARIO Front to cooperate fully with his Special Representative and the Identification Commission so that the identification process may move forward. They must also cooperate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its preparatory work for the repatriation of Saharan refugees.

Notwithstanding the delays in the start of the transitional period and the repatriation of Saharan refugees, the Secretary-General states that it is important that the demining activities start as soon as possible as decided by the Security Council in its resolution 1148 (1998). He accepts an assessment by a Swedish team that an additional period of eight weeks would be required for it to complete its demining tasks. The Government of Pakistan has formally offered to provide 150 engineering personnel, whose advanced elements and contingent-owned equipment will arrive in the Mission area by the end of April. They will remain as part of MINURSO's military component until the fulfilment of the Mission's mandate. Slovakia has also offered 80 personnel and their deployment would be considered in due course in the event that this is necessary to ensure the timely completion of all demining tasks.

The Secretary-General's report states that some $65.1 million gross maintenance budget for MINURSO for the period 1 July 1998 to 30 June 1999 has been submitted to the General Assembly for consideration at its second resumed fifty-second session. Unpaid assessed contributions to the MINURSO special account since its inception to 31 March 1998 amounted to $50.6 million. The total of outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations as at the same date was $1.55 billion, the report adds.

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For information media. Not an official record.