SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 31 MARCH19990211 The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 March 1999.
By adopting resolution 1228 (1999) unanimously, the Council also expressed its hope that the extension would allow for consultations between the parties involved that would lead to agreement on the protocols on identification, appeals and repatriation planning activities, as well as on the calendar for implementation.
Also by the text, the Council requested both parties to take concrete action to enable the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to carry out the necessary preparatory work for the repatriation of Saharan refugees eligible to vote, and their immediate families, according to the Settlement Plan.
That Plan, among other things, provides for the organization and the conduct of a referendum under the auspices of the United Nations, in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Under the Secretary-General's proposed package intended to implement the Settlement Plan, a referendum would be held in December 1999 to determine the future of Western Sahara.
The Council requested the Secretary-General to report to it by 22 March on the implementation of the present resolution. It also supported the intention of the Secretary-General to ask his Personal Envoy, James A. Baker III, to reassess the viability of the mandate of MINURSO.
The meeting, which began at 5:09 p.m., was adjourned at 5:11 p.m..
The full text of resolution 1228 (1998) is as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions on the question of the Western Sahara, and reaffirming in particular resolution 1204 (1998) of 30 October 1998 and resolution 1215 (1998) of 17 December 1998,
"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 28 January 1999 (S/1999/88) and the observations and recommendations contained therein,
"1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 March 1999 to allow for consultations in the hope and expectation of agreement on the protocols on identification, appeals and repatriation planning activities, as well as on the essential issue of the implementation calendar, without undermining the integrity of the Secretary-General's proposed package or calling into question its main elements, for the prompt resumption of voter identification and initiation of the appeals process;
"2. Requests both parties to take concrete action to enable the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to carry out the necessary preparatory work for the repatriation of Saharan refugees eligible to vote, and their immediate families, according to the Settlement Plan;
"3. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council by 22 March 1999 on the implementation of this resolution;
"4. Supports the intention of the Secretary-General to ask his Personal Envoy to reassess the viability of the mandate of MINURSO should the prospects for putting the package of measures into effect remain elusive at the time of submission of the Secretary-General's next report;
"5. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
When the Council met today it had before it a report from the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (document S/1999/88). In his report, the Secretary-General recommends extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 28 February, in the expectation that the discussion now underway will lead to prompt reactivation of the referendum process. However, if the prospect of putting the package of measures into effect remains elusive at the time of his next report, he intends to reassess the situation and the viability of the mandate.
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6641 3976th Meeting (PM) 11 February 1999
MINURSO was established in accordance with the Settlement Plan of 30 August 1988 to undertake a number of tasks, including monitoring a ceasefire, verifying the reduction of Moroccan troops in Western Sahara and ensuring the confinement of troops of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) to designated locations. It was also to identify and register qualified voters for the referendum to be held in the territory.
The Secretary-General recommends the extension because the Government of Morocco has now decided to sign the status-of-forces agreement concerning MINURSO, a decision that will permit orderly deployment of the resources needed to carry out the Settlement Plan and facilitate the day-to-day conduct of the mission. The Council had urged the Moroccan Government to conclude such an agreement in its resolution 1215 (1998).
In addition, he notes in the report the decision of the Moroccan Government to engage in detailed discussions with his Special Representative and the Chairman of the Identification Commission on voter identification and appeals protocols, part of the United Nations package presented to the parties in October 1998. The Government sought extensive clarifications on the documents, which were provided, and the Secretary-General expects a response with proposed changes within a few days. Such changes should not affect the balance and spirit of the package and should allow the identification and appeals process to be implemented within the time frame in the package. Current consultations could lead to a rapid resumption of the identification process and the initiation of the appeals process.
The key provisions of the package include: initiation of the appeals process and identification of applicants from certain tribal groupings wishing to present individually; formalization of the presence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the territory; and a revised schedule, under which the transitional period would start in June/July 1999 and the referendum would be held in December 1999.
The Secretary-General welcomes the Government's decision to formalize the status of UNHCR in the territory. It is imperative, he reports, that preparatory work for the return of refugees eligible to vote in the referendum begin soon. The pre-registration process in the Tindouf camps should be allowed to resume.
He calls on the Moroccan Government to commence discussions with UNHCR on the draft refugee repatriation protocol -- an essential guide to work to bring refugees back to the Territory -- and advises the United Nations will respond promptly to comments on the protocol from the POLISARIO and the Government of Morocco.
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