SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 29 FEBRUARY 2000

14 December 1999
SC/6770

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 29 FEBRUARY 2000

14 December 1999

Press ReleaseSC/6770

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 29 FEBRUARY 2000

19991214

Resolution 1282 (1999) Adopted 14-0-1 (Namibia)

The Security Council this afternoon the mandate of the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 29 February 2000, in order to complete the identification of voters, issue a second provisional voters list, and initiate appeals for three tribal groupings.

Adopting resolution 1282 (1999) by a vote of 14 in favour, with one abstention (Namibia), the Council noted the concern that problems posed by the current number of candidates who had exercised their right of appeal and the opposing positions taken by the parties on the issue of admissibility seemed to allow little possibility of holding the referendum before 2002 -- or even beyond. The Council supported the Secretary-General's intention to instruct his Special Representative to continue consulting with the parties and seeking to reconcile opposing views on the appeals process, repatriation of refugees and other crucial aspects of the United Nations Settlement Plan.

At the same time, however, it noted the Secretary-General's assessment that difficulties might be encountered in reconciling those opposing views, and so requested him to report before the end of MINURSO's present mandate on prospects for progress in implementing the Settlement Plan in a reasonable period of time.

Welcoming the parties' reiteration of their agreement in principle to the draft action plan for cross-border confidence-building measures, the Council called upon them to cooperate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and with MINURSO for the initiation of those measures without further delay.

Speaking before the vote, Namibia's representative said the draft text was selective and ignored concerns previously expressed by the Council in its resolutions 1238 and 1263 which, among other things, stated that the appeals process should not be turned into a new round of identification. The text also painted a negative picture, which might send a wrong message to the international community. For those reasons, his delegation would not support the text.

The MINURSO was established by resolution 690 (1991) to assist in implementing a Settlement Plan, which was meant to conclude with a referendum in which the people of the Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. The referendum was originally scheduled for January 1992, but the parties continue to have divergent views on some of the Plan's key elements, including those on the question of criteria for eligibility to vote in the referendum.

The meeting began at 4:36 p.m. and adjourned at 4:41 p.m.

Work Programme

When the Security Council met this afternoon it had before it a report of the Secretary-General (S/1999/1219) covering developments in Western Sahara since his report to the Council of 28 October (S/1999/1098).

The Secretary-General, noting the prospect of substantial delays in the implementation of the Settlement Plan, recommends that the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 29 February 2000.

The report was issued in response to a Council request that the Secretary- General report to it every 45 days on significant developments in the implementation of the United Nations Settlement Plan for Western Sahara, of the agreements between the parties, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y de Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO). The plan, (S/21360 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 MINURSO, would have responsibility over all matters relating to the referendum, including identifying and registering qualified voters.

The Secretary-General says that extending MINURSO's mandate would allow time for the completion of identification, the issuance of the second provisional voter list and the initiation of appeals from applicants of tribal groupings H41, H62 and J52/52, "thus giving a final picture of where we finally stand on the appeals issue", he says. Should the Council approve his recommendation to extend the mandate, the cost of maintaining the Mission would be within the monthly rate approved by the General Assembly and the commitment authority granted by the Advisory Committee.

The status of the three tribal groupings has been contested because Morocco considers them Sahraoui, while the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el- Hamra y de Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) considers them Moroccan. Identification operations for individual applicants from the tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52 are scheduled to be completed by 31 December 1999. The Identification Commission has identified 42,774 applicants from the tribal groupings. To date, a relatively small percentage of applicants from the above-mentioned three tribal groupings has been found eligible by the Identification Commission. If all those who may be found ineligible were to file an appeal, the total number of appeals to be processed could almost double.

During the period covered by the report, the Secretary-General's Special Representative consulted with the leadership of the parties in the region with a view to securing the continuation of the appeals process and the simultaneous identification of the remaining applicants from the tribal groupings referred to above, as well as of the preparatory work for the repatriation of refugees and other Saharans residing outside the Territory who are eligible to vote. For the most part, the leaders expressed concern over the delays for the referendum.

Representatives of the POLISARIO and Algeria argued that a strict interpretation of the admissibility would reduce the time needed for completing the appeals process. The Moroccan authorities reiterated that every prospective voter had the right to appeal. According to the report, the Special Representative has received no indication that the parties would change their views on this issue. Under the circumstances, the prospect of holding the referendum within a reasonable amount of time, instead of becoming closer, has become even more distant, the Secretary-General says.

In his previous report of 28 October, the Secretary-General had indicated that the parties had agreed in principle to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) draft plan for cross-border confidence-building measures. However, since tangible progress has yet to be made in this regard, the Secretary- General reiterates his previous appeal to the parties to cooperate with UNHCR and MINURSO for the initiation of these measures without further delay. He adds that consultations need to be resumed with all the parties to the UNHCR repatriation protocol as soon as possible, with a view to finalizing the document.

The Secretary-General has instructed his Special Representative to continue consultations with the parties, seeking a reconciliation of their widely divergent views regarding the appeals process, the repatriation of refugees and other crucial aspects of the United Nations Settlement Plan. He stresses that difficulties may be encountered in reconciling the opposing views of the parties regarding the appeals process and the repatriation of Saharan refugees, and therefore the implementation within a reasonable period of the Settlement Plan itself. The problems caused by the current number of appeals and the opposing positions taken by the parties on the issue of admissibility seem to allow little possibility of holding the referendum before 2002 or even beyond.

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

Resolution

The Council also had before it a draft resolution (document S/1999/1239) sponsored by France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States, which reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling all its previous resolutions on the Western Sahara, in particular resolutions 1238 (1999) of 14 May 1999 and 1263 (1999) of 13 September 1999,

"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 7 December 1999 (S/1999/1219) and the observations and recommendations contained therein,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 29 February 2000 in order to complete the identification of voters, issue a second provisional voters list, and initiate appeals for tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52;

"2. Welcomes the reiteration by the parties of their agreement in principle to the draft plan of action for cross-border confidence-building measures, including person-to-person contacts, submitted pursuant to resolution 1238 (1999) of 14 May 1999, and calls on them to cooperate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and MINURSO for the initiation of these measures without further delay;

"3. Expresses its concern that the problems posed by the current number of candidates who have exercised their right of appeal and the opposing positions taken by the parties on the issue of admissibility seem to allow little possibility of holding the referendum before 2002 or even beyond, supports the intention of the Secretary-General to instruct his Special Representative to continue his consultations with the parties for these issues, seeking a reconciliation of their opposing views regarding the appeals process, the repatriation of refugees and other crucial aspects of the United Nations Settlement Plan;

"4. Takes note of the assessment by the Secretary-General, however, that difficulties may be encountered in reconciling the opposing views of the parties, and therefore requests the Secretary-General to report before the end of the present mandate on prospects for progress in implementing the Settlement Plan within a reasonable period of time;

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

Statements

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said his delegation believed in the inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and independence. The United Nations settlement plan was the only credible mechanism to achieve that. The plan had the full support of the OAU. As for today’s text, his delegation would have preferred a technical resolution to extend the mandate of MINURSO to 29 February. The Council was awaiting a more comprehensive report from the Secretary-General, when it was expected to review the overall situation there. The draft text did not represent faithfully the Secretary-General’s last report. It was selective, and ignored concerns previously expressed by the Council in its resolutions 1238 and 1263 which, among other things, stated that the appeals process should not be turned into a new round of identification. Today’s draft also painted a negative picture, which might send the wrong message to the international community. For those reasons, the Namibian delegation could not support the text.

The Council then adopted resolution 1282 (1999) by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with one abstention (Namibia).

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For information media. Not an official record.