SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 30 APRIL

30 March 1999
SC/6660

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 30 APRIL

30 March 1999

Press ReleaseSC/6660

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 30 APRIL

19990330 The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for one month, until 30 April 1999.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1232 (1999), the Council took the decision to allow time for an understanding to be reached on the means for implementation of the identification and appeals protocols, including a revised implementation schedule, which were contained in the Secretary- General's package of measures presented to the parties in October 1998.

The Council also requested both parties -- the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) -- to reach an agreement on the refugee repatriation protocol, so that all aspects of the work needed to prepare the way for repatriation might begin. To that end, the Council welcomed the decision of the POLISARIO to allow the resumption of pre-registration activities by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tindouf.

The Council asked the Secretary-General to report to it by 23 April on implementation of the present resolution.

The MINURSO became operational in 1991, following Security Council approval of a Western Sahara Settlement Plan, which provided for the holding of a referendum in which the people of the Territory would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. The referendum was originally scheduled for 1992, but because of divergent views on parts of the Plan, particularly regarding the criteria for eligibility to vote, it has not been held. Since then, the negotiating process has continued, although at times brought to a complete standstill by irreconcilable differences between the two sides.

The process gained new momentum in 1997, when the parties reached agreements through direct talks arranged by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James A. Baker III of the United States. MINURSO was then directed to proceed with implementation of the Settlement Plan, beginning with completion

of the identification process. MINURSO's mandate has been extended throughout the period, most recently until 31 March 1999, while the parties continue to negotiate on the protocols for identification and the calendar for implementation. The current package of proposals calls for a referendum in December 1999.

The meeting, which was called to order at 1:21 p.m., was adjourned at 1:25 p.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 1232 (1999) reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

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

"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 22 March 1999 (S/1999/307) and the observations and recommendations contained therein,

"Welcoming also the agreement in principle to the Secretary-General's package by the Government of Morocco and recalling its acceptance by the POLISARIO Front,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 1999 to allow for an understanding to be reached among all concerned on detailed modalities for the implementation of the identification and appeals protocols, including a revised implementation schedule, in a manner that would preserve the integrity of the Secretary-General's package of measures,

"2. Requests both parties to move ahead with the necessary discussions to reach an agreement on the refugee repatriation protocol, so that all aspects of the work needed to prepare the way for the repatriation of refugees may begin, including confidence-building measures, and in that regard, welcomes the decision of the POLISARIO Front to allow the resumption of pre- registration activities of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tindouf;

"3. Welcomes the signature, by the Government of Morocco and the MINURSO Force Commander, of the agrement on mines and unexploded ordinance mentioned in paragraph 13 of the report of the Secretary-General, and urges the POLISARIO Front to engage in a similar effort;

"4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council by 23 April 1999 on the implementation of this resolution;

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

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Secretary-General's Report

When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General (S/1999/307) in which he recommends a one-month extension of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April.

The Secretary-General states that the extension would provide sufficient time for an understanding to be reached among all concerned on detailed modalities for the implementation of the process of identification and appeals protocols, including a revised schedule for the referendum to determine the future of Western Sahara.

The Secretary-General goes on to say that Morocco had indicated its provisional acceptance of the United Nations proposals for the referendum, but had asked that the modalities for organizing the identification and appeals be consistent with the objective of holding the referendum by March 2000. Morocco had asked that the appeals procedure be launched no later than one month after the date of resumption of identification and would prefer that the provisional list of potential voters be published on that date. The protocols and timetable would have to be adjusted accordingly, the Secretary-General adds.

To facilitate its future work and ensure its full responsibility, the Secretary-General says that MINURSO expected to provide to the parties -- the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el- Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) -- at the end of March 1999, revised texts of the identification and appeals protocols, which would incorporate the necessary amendments and revised dates. MINURSO would also provide them with detailed operational directives and a revised timetable for implementation of the protocols.

The key provisions of the United Nations package, which were designed to accelerate the referendum process and presented to the parties in October 1998, are as follows: the initiation of the appeals process for already identified applicants at the same time as the identification of remaining applicants from tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52 wishing to present themselves individually; the effective formalization of the presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Western Sahara, to allow the necessary preparation for the repatriation of refugees and other Saharans residing outside the Territory who are eligible to vote, together with their immediate families; and a revised schedule, under which the transitional period would start in June-July 1999 and the referendum would be held in December 1999.

With respect to the military aspects of MINURSO's work, the Secretary- General welcomed the signature, by the Moroccan Government and the MINURSO

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Force Commander, of the agreement on mines and unexploded ordnance. He says MINURSO was engaged in efforts for a similar agreement with the POLISARIO.

The Secretary-General's report also states that UNHCR had made progress in establishing itself in Western Sahara and preparing the ground for the repatriation of Saharan refugees. The UNHCR had moved into new office premises in Layoune after the Moroccan Government formalized its presence in the Territory. The Secretary-General called upon the POLISARIO to allow prompt resumption of work on the pre-registration of refugees living in the Tindouf camps.

The Secretary-General says that he had designated Robin Kinloch, Chairman of the Identification Commission, as Acting Special Representative, with immediate effect, following the resignation of Charles F. Dunbar, effective 31 March. The Secretary-General paid tribute to Mr. Dunbar for his leadership and dedication.

According to the report, as at 15 March, the strength of the military component of MINURSO stood at 230, all ranks. Under the command of Major- General Bernd S. Lubenik (Austria), the MINURSO military component monitored the ceasefire between the Royal Moroccan Army and POLISARIO forces, which came into effect on 6 September 1991. The MINURSO area of responsibility remained calm and there had been no indications that either side intended to resume hostilities, the Secretary-General states.

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For information media. Not an official record.