SECURITY COUNCIL RENEWS MANDATE OF WESTERN SAHARA MISSION

20 July 1998
SC/6552

SECURITY COUNCIL RENEWS MANDATE OF WESTERN SAHARA MISSION

20 July 1998

Press ReleaseSC/6552

SECURITY COUNCIL RENEWS MANDATE OF WESTERN SAHARA MISSION

19980720

The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for a period of two months until 21 September 1998, so that the Mission might proceed with its identification tasks, with the aim of completing the process.

As it unanimously adopted resolution 1185 (1998), the Council called on the parties -- the Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacíon de Saguia el-Hamra y del Río Oro (Frente POLISARIO) -- to cooperate constructively with the United Nations, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary- General, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Identification Commission in order to complete the identification phase of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached for its implementation.

The Council noted with satisfaction the expressed readiness of the Moroccan Government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to formalize the presence of the UNHCR in Western Sahara, according to the Settlement Plan.

Reiterating its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara, the Council called for a prompt conclusion of status-of-forces agreements with the Secretary-General to facilitate the full and timely deployment of MINURSO-formed military units, in particular, the deployment of the military engineering support and demining units. It 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.

By another part of the resolution, the Council called for the lifting of any restrictions imposed on MINURSO aircraft, or on passengers whose travel MINURSO determined to be of assistance to the fulfilment of the mandate in line with the practice of United Nations peacekeeping operations. It noted that discussions were being held to that end.

The Council requested the Secretary-General to report to it every 30 days on the progress of the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the parties, and to keep it regularly informed of

all significant developments, as well as on the continuing viability of the mandate of MINURSO.

The meeting, which began at 11:14 a.m., was adjourned at 11:15 a.m.

Text of Resolution

The text of resolution 1185 (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 10 July 1998 (S/1998/634) and supporting the observations and recommendations contained therein,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 21 September 1998, in order that MINURSO may proceed with its identification tasks, with the aim of completing the process;

"2. Welcomes, in line with the report of the Secretary-General, engagement by his Personal Envoy with the parties to seek a solution to those issues bearing upon implementation of the Settlement Plan;

"3. Calls upon the parties to cooperate constructively with the United Nations, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, 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;

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"4. Notes with satisfaction the expressed readiness of the Moroccan Government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to formalize the presence of UNHCR in the Western Sahara, according to the Settlement Plan;

"5. 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 (S/1998/316);

"6. 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;

"7. Calls for a prompt conclusion of status-of-forces agreements with the Secretary-General which would greatly facilitate the full and timely deployment of MINURSO-formed military units, in particular the deployment of the military engineering support and demining units, and in this context notes progress that has been made, and recalls that pending the conclusion of such agreements, the model status-of-forces agreement dated 9 October 1990 (A/45/594), as provided for in General Assembly resolution 52/12 B, should apply provisionally;

"8. Calls for the lifting of any restrictions imposed on MINURSO aircraft, or on passengers whose travel MINURSO determines to be of assistance to the fulfilment of the mandate, in line with the practice of United Nations peacekeeping operations, and notes that discussions are being held to this end;

"9. 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;

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

Secretary-General's Report

In his report to the Council, the Secretary-General recommended that the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) be extended for a period of two months, until 21 September 1998 (document S/1998/634). If by then there were still a possibility that the

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Settlement Plan for Western Sahara could be implemented, the Secretary-General would submit a revised timetable along with a progress report to the Council. If the Settlement Plan is no longer viable, the Secretary-General intends to offer recommendations on the continuation of MINURSO's mandate.

The present report is submitted in response to the Council's request that the Secretary-General report every 30 days on the progress of the implementation of the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between Morocco and Frente POLISARIO.

The MINURSO -- known by its French acronym -- was established by resolution 658 (1990), under which the Council also approved plans for a settlement of the Western Sahara question. It further provided for the United Nations to supervise a ceasefire between Morocco and Frente POLISARIO and to organize and conduct a referendum for the people of the Territory to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.

The Secretary-General reports that there was a substantial increase in June and early July in the pace of identification of persons qualified to vote in the referendum. If that pace is sustained, MINURSO will be able to complete during the month of August 1998 the identification of applicants from all Saharan tribes other than the tribal groupings listed as H41, H61 and J51/52.

How to proceed with the identification of members of those tribal groupings presents the only major impediment to MINURSO's completion of the identification phase and moving on to the final phase of the referendum process, the Secretary- General says. The Frente POLISARIO has asked MINURSO to include, in the Tindouf area and in Mauritania, the identification of those applicants from tribal groups H41, H61 and J51/52 who are listed in the 1974 census of the Territory. According to MINURSO's records, there are 603 such individuals. However, Morocco has refused to participate in their identification until the overall issue of the eligibility of some 65,000 applicants from the above three groups is resolved. They maintain that all 65,000 applicants have the right to be identified to determine their eligibility to vote.

The Secretary-General has asked that, after substantial completion of the identification of applicants from tribes other than the three tribal groups in question, his Personal Envoy consider engaging the parties in seeking a solution to the issues bearing upon the implementation of the Settlement Plan. Thereafter, the Personal Envoy would assess the implementability of the Plan in its present form, examine whether there are acceptable adjustments to the Plan which would significantly improve the chances of implementing it, and if not, advise on possible avenues to be pursued. Such an assessment, the Secretary-General says, would influence the Secretary-General's conclusions as to the continued viability of MINURSO's mandate.

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The UNHCR still awaits clearance from the Government of Morocco on a number of issues before it can undertake activities in Western Sahara as planned in its repatriation programme, according to the report. In view of the limitations imposed on it, the UNHCR has decided not to launch an appeal for funds. The Secretary-General stresses the importance of formalizing the presence of the UNHCR and conducting substantive consultations between the Moroccan Government and the UNHCR to allow the latter to promote a climate of confidence among the refugees and enable them to return under conditions of safety and dignity. He noted with satisfaction that the Moroccan authorities have expressed readiness to cooperate with the UNHCR.

In an earlier report (document S/1998/534), the Secretary General told the Council of a government statement that, for security reasons, all weapons, ammunition and explosives of the MINURSO military units should be stored in depots of the Royal Armed Forces. The United Nations requested that, pending the conclusion of the status-of-forces agreement, the Moroccan Government confirm as soon as possible that the Mission's formed military units may carry their own weapons and keep custody of their equipment and ammunition at their own sites in accordance with the established practice for all United Nations peacekeeping missions. Pending the resolution of that crucial issue, the deployment of the military units was postponed.

In his current report, the Secretary-General says that as at 6 July 1998, the military component of MINURSO stood at 336 observers and other military personnel, including the demining unit from Sweden and advanced elements of the engineering support unit from Pakistan. However, he says, those units will not be operational until the arrival of their weapons and ammunition. Consultations between MINURSO and Morocco were expected to be held in the coming days to work out practical arrangements for the carriage of weapons and custody of equipment and ammunition by those units.

Announcing that formal replies to the draft status-of-forces agreements have been received from Algeria and Mauritania, the Secretary-General expresses the hope that the agreements may be signed shortly. He also expects that the Moroccan authorities will provide an early positive response so that the status- of-forces agreement may also be concluded with them without further delay.

Calling attention to another issue of concern, the Secretary-General reports that the Government of Morocco has informed the Special Representative that the use of MINURSO aircraft should be limited exclusively to MINURSO personnel. Airport authorities in Laayoune have since prevented several journalists from having access to MINURSO flights. Such restrictions are not in line with the practice of United Nations peacekeeping operations. In a letter to the Government of Morocco on 30 June, the Special Representative stressed that visits by diplomats, staff of non-governmental organizations and journalists contribute to the conduct of MINURSO's activities and to the transparency of the process. He asked the Government of Morocco to change its position.

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For information media. Not an official record.