|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5560th Meeting (AM)
SECURITY COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION 1720 (2006), EXTENDING
MANDATE OF UNITED NATIONS MISSION IN WESTERN SAHARA FOR SIX MONTHS
Calling once again on the parties to the conflict in Western Sahara to overcome their long-standing impasse, the Security Council decided this morning to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for six months, until 30 April 2007.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1720 (2006), the Council also requested contributions from Member States to fund confidence-building measures that would allow for increased contact between family members separated by the conflict.
Following the adoption of that text, the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and France urged the parties -- Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) -- to use the next six months to finally break the impasse in the situation in Western Sahara.
The United States delegate urged Morocco to move quickly to fulfil promises to table a comprehensive and credible autonomy proposal and to engage in serious discussions with all Saharawi people, including the Polisario, in a way that could form the basis for a new United Nations-led negotiating process.
He called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to examine the mechanisms and timetable for the Mission’s dismantlement, should MINURSO “continue to prove ineffective in fulfilling its mandate or the concerned parties prove unable to make substantial progress towards a political solution”.
In his latest report on Western Sahara, Secretary-General Annan says the continued presence of MINURSO remains “indispensable” for the maintenance of the ceasefire because of circumstances on the ground and the lack of progress towards a permanent settlement of the situation after a 15-year stalemate.
He also urges the parties to drop any preconditions and begin direct negotiations with a view to “achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”.
The meeting opened at 11:38 a.m. and adjourned at 11:46 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1720 (2006) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara, including resolution 1495 (2003) of 31 July 2003, resolution 1541 (2004) of 29 April 2004, and resolution 1675 (2006) of 28 April 2006,
“Reaffirming its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy,
“Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect,
“Reiterating its call upon the parties and States of the region to continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,
“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 16 October 2006 (S/2006/817),
“1. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire;
“2. Calls on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund Confidence-Building Measures that allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family unification visits;
“3. Requests the Secretary-General provide a report on the situation in the Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period;
“4. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including pre-deployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;
“5. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2007;
“6. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (document S/2006/817), which recommends a six-month extension of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in that territory (MINURSO), as well as direct talks between the main parties, Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario).
According to the report, the Secretary-General welcomes the continued reductions in ceasefire violations by the parties, while encouraging them to cooperate fully with MINURSO, lift restrictions placed on the Mission and explore the best way to guarantee full protection of human rights. He also welcomes news that the exchange of family visits between Western Sahara and the refugee camps around Tindouf in Algeria are set to resume soon.
He notes, however, that, based on circumstances on the ground and the lack of progress towards a permanent settlement of the situation, the continued presence of MINURSO remains “indispensable” for the maintenance of the ceasefire. Regrettably, due to the fact that, 15 years after the ceasefire agreement, the two military parties remain without direct contact with each other, Morocco and the Polisario should drop any preconditions and begin negotiations with a view to “achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”.
The report states that the parties’ preconditions -– Morocco’s demand for recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara and Polisario’s demand for a referendum with independence as an option -– can be discussed within the negotiations. “[But] such negotiations will not get off the ground unless the Security Council makes it absolutely clear that the exercise of self-determination is the only agreed aim of the negotiations.” Neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania should also be invited to participate in any peace talks.
According to the report, the current impasse benefits neither Morocco nor the Polisario. The Secretary-General cites the findings of his Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, following his consultations with both sides, as well as with neighbouring States and other interested parties, over the past six months.
MINURSO was established in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire and organize a referendum on self-determination in the former Spanish colony, which Morocco has claimed as its own and where the Polisario has been fighting for independence. The Mission currently has a military presence of 214 personnel, out of an authorized strength of 231, plus 5 civilian police.
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