|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5884th Meeting (Night)
SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS WESTERN SAHARA MISSION UNTIL 30 APRIL 2009,
UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1813 (2008)
Following extensive consultations, the Security Council this evening extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for one year, until 30 April 2009.
In unanimously adopting resolution 1813 (2008), the Council reaffirmed its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Parties were called on to continue negotiations -- under the Secretary-General’s auspices -- with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.
Member States were urged to provide voluntary contributions to fund measures allowing for increased contact between separated family members, especially family visits, as well as for other confidence-building measures that might be agreed between the parties.
The Council reiterated its call for cooperation between parties and States of the region, while taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution. The Council also noted the proposal presented by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) to the Secretary-General on 10 April 2007.
The Council welcomed the agreement of the parties expressed in the Communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara of 18 March 2008 to explore the establishment of family visits by land, which would be in addition to the existing program by air, and encouraging them to do so in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Prior to the vote, the representative of Costa Rica lodged concerns over the absence of any reference to human rights in the resolution, which he believed to be integral to the matter. In the interest of unity, he had withdrawn the proposed amendments, especially after the Russian Federation had said it would move to a technical veto if such references were included. Yet, human rights violations had been something both parties had accused the other of, as had been raised during the Council’s numerous consultations on the issue.
The representative of the Russian Federation explained that his country had put forward the possibility of a technical veto, dealing with voting on a draft text on which there was no agreement from his capital. As for the inclusion of certain provisions, other delegations had also spoken against them, he added.
South Africa’s delegate said the current resolution called on both parties to show realism and a spirit of compromise, but the context of retaining that phrase had changed, leading to “destructive ambiguity” and the possibility of interpreting the Council as favouring one party over the other.
At the same time, the text had no mention of human rights, despite the fact that the Secretary-General continued to draw attention to the human rights situation in Western Sahara. The fact that some Council members were quick to pronounce themselves on human rights in situations that were sometimes not even on the Council’s agenda, but refused to pronounce themselves on human rights in Western Sahara, created a double standard. He added that no State or individual should be able to bestow on itself the right to deny the right of self-determination to the people of Western Sahara. That could set a precedent.
Statements were also made by the representatives of France, United States and Burkina Faso.
The meeting started at 10:27 p.m. and adjourned at 10:55 p.m.
When the Security Council met this evening to consider the situation concerning Western Sahara, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the matter (S/2008/251), in which he recommends that the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) be extended for a further period of six months, until 31 October 2008.
According to the report, on 6 November 2007, in a speech to mark the thirty-second anniversary of the “green march” into Western Sahara, King Mohammed VI of Morocco stated that no effort would be spared to ensure the success of negotiations within the framework of Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. During a congress from 14 to 18 December 2007, the Polisario Front held its twelfth congress, during which the party’s leadership discussed policy options, including a possible return to armed conflict.
During the reporting period, Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, held consultations with the representatives of the two parties, the neighbouring countries and other interested countries. The parties participated in the fourth round of negotiations in Manhasset from 16 to 18 March, during which the parties held several sessions of face-to-face discussions, as well as separate meetings with Mr. van Walsum. Representatives from Algeria and Mauritania were consulted separately.
The overall situation in MINURSO’s area of responsibility remained generally calm during the reporting period, according to the report. MINURSO continued to enjoy good relations with both the Moroccan Army and the Polisario Front armed forces. Violations of military agreement no. 1 by both parties have decreased. With regard to military agreements nos. 2 and 3, both parties continued to extend their cooperation to MINURSO in the marking and disposal of mines, unexploded ordnance and expired ammunitions.
The Secretary-General welcomes the parties’ continued commitment to continue the process of negotiations, but concurs with his Personal Envoy that the momentum can only be maintained by trying to find a way out of the current political impasse through realism and a spirit of compromise from both parties. The consolidation of the status quo is not an acceptable outcome. He recommends that the Council reiterates its call upon the parties to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations. The Council should call upon the parties to negotiate without preconditions.
Welcoming progress achieved in the clearance of mines and explosive remnants of war, the Secretary-General notes that that is a valuable contribution to the welfare of all Western Saharans and to the security of the Mission. In addition, the demining activities provide an opportunity for increased cooperation and confidence-building measures between the parties.
Concerned by the humanitarian situation of the Western Saharan refugees, the Secretary-General is, nevertheless, pleased that the family visits between the Territory and the Tindouf refugee camps continued without interruptions, and that the parties have agreed to explore the possibility of family visits by land, in addition to the existing programme by air. He calls upon the international community to support the programme, as he is concerned that this valuable humanitarian initiative is at risk if additional funding is not forthcoming. The Secretary-General urges the parties to continue to explore ways to expand the programme of confidence-building measures.
The Secretary-General repeats his call to the parties to remain engaged in the continuous and constructive dialogue with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with a view to ensuring respect for the human rights of the people of Western Sahara.
The Security Council had before it a draft resolution (document S/2008/284) sponsored by France, Russian Federation, Spain, United Kingdom and United States, which reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara,
“Reaffirming its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to implement resolutions 1754 (2007) and 1783 (2007),
“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 and with each other to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,
“Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution; also taking note of the Polisario Front proposal presented 10 April 2007 to the Secretary-General,
“Taking note of the four rounds of negotiations held under the auspices of the Secretary-General; welcoming the progress made by the parties to enter into direct negotiations,
“Welcoming the agreement of the parties expressed in the Communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara of 18 March 2008 to explore the establishment of family visits by land, which would be in addition to the existing program by air, and encouraging them to do so in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
“Welcoming the commitment of the parties to continue the process of negotiations through United Nations sponsored talks,
“Noting the Secretary-General’s view that the consolidation of the status quo is not an acceptable outcome of the current process of negotiations, and noting further that progress in the negotiations will have a positive impact on the quality of life of the people of Western Sahara in all its aspects,
“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 14 April 2008 (S/2008/251),
“1. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire;
“2. Endorses the report’s recommendation that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to maintain the momentum of the process of negotiations;
“3. Calls upon the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 and 1783 and the success of negotiations; and affirms its strong support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy towards a solution to the question of Western Sahara in this context;
“4. Calls upon the parties to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments, with a view to achieving 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;
“5. Invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to these talks;
“6. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Security Council informed on a regular basis on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices, and expresses its intention to meet to receive and discuss his report;
“7. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period;
“8. Urges Member States to provide voluntary contributions to fund Confidence Building Measures that allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family visits, as well as for other confidence building measures that may be agreed between the parties;
“9. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2009;
“10. 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;
“11. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
Action on Text
Speaking before the vote, JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said his country had campaigned for a seat at the Security Council on the basis of clear principles: that a country should be able to enjoy the rule of law without restrictions and that Costa Rica would promote respect for human rights without double standards. Given that background, it was not surprising that he would now lodge concerns about the way in which the current resolution had been negotiated.
He said there had been a “total refusal” on the part of some to include a reference to human rights, which he believed to be integral to the matter at hand. Costa Rica had proposed two possibilities during the negotiation process, and the representative of the Russian Federation had threatened a technical veto if such references were included. Yet, human rights violations had been something both parties had accused the other of, as had been raised during the Council’s consultations on the issue.
Further, he found it hard to understand that members of the “Group of Friends” could act as substitutes for Council members in preparing the draft text.
He said the Council should strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Members should not sit at the table to defend the interest of one side or another, of one delegation or another.
He said the solution to self-determination lay in continued negotiations between the two parties, with full respect for the provisions of international law, particularly as contained in General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1541 (XV), which said the decolonization process should involve either the annexation of a territory by another nation or a proclamation of independence.
He said the fact that respect for international law had not been reflected in the text had done nothing to strengthen the Council’s legitimacy. The first amendment proposed by Costa Rica involved the insertion of the phrase “realism within the framework of international law”. An entire operative paragraph had been proposed, which would have called on parties to engage in continuous and constructive dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and that MINURSO would act to ensure the human rights of the people of Western Sahara were protected. Both amendments had been withdrawn, in the spirit of consensus.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV ( Russian Federation) expressed surprise that the representative of Costa Rica -- a country that normally maintained friendly relations with the Russian Federation -- had misrepresented what had happened during Security Council consultations. His country had put forward a possibility of a technical veto, dealing with voting on a draft on which there was no agreement from his capital. As for the inclusion of some provisions in the text, other delegations had also spoken against them.
Speaking in his national capacity, the President of the Council, DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa), said that consultations on the draft had illustrated that the Group of Friends was not genuinely interested in negotiating, thinking that, once presented, the text was cast in stone. The Group had made no real attempt to reach compromise on contentious paragraphs in order to reach a balanced text. The Council, which had the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, had been undermined by the Group.
Including the word “realism” in the resolution would be interpreted as implying that the Council endorsed the view of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, he continued. No State or individual could bestow on itself the right to deny the right of self-determination to the people of Western Sahara. That could set a precedent. Was the Council to say the people of Palestine had to be realistic? Realism in the text of the resolution was related to the negotiations and not the outcome. The resolution called on both parties to show realism and a spirit of compromise that were essential for serious efforts to move the process forward. The context of retaining that phrase had changed, and that had led to destructive ambiguity and resulted in the possibility of interpreting the Council as favouring one party over the other.
The resolution was clear that the Council took note of both proposals and called on the parties to negotiate on the basis of both, he said. Any attempt to put one over the other would undermine the process. The Council and the Personal Envoy should remain objective, without prejudging the final outcome of negotiations.
At the same time, the text had no mention of human rights, despite the fact that the Secretary-General continued to draw attention to the human rights situation in Western Sahara. The fact that some Council members were quick to pronounce themselves on human rights in situations that were sometimes not even on the Council’s agenda, but refused to pronounce themselves on human rights in Western Sahara, created a double standard. He called on both parties to continue the negotiations on the basis of the two proposals.
Despite serious concerns, his delegation would vote in favour of the draft in the hope that the people of Western Sahara would one day achieve their right for self-determination.
The Council then unanimously adopted resolution 1813 (2008).
Speaking after the vote, ALEJANDRO WOLFF ( United States) said he did not agree with the interpretation by some Council members of the process that had led to the resolution, or with the arguments presented by certain Council members with regard to the substance of the issue.
He said the conflict in Western Sahara had gone on too long and prevented progress towards regional integration in northern Africa. Everyone yearned for a mutually agreed political solution, but four rounds of discussions had confirmed the difficulties involved. In absence of a settlement, he viewed MINURSO’s role as ever more vital and was pleased that its mandate had been unanimously extended.
He said the United States intended to broaden its engagement with both parties over the coming weeks and months. The United States agreed with the view that an independent Saharan State was not a realistic option, as Envoy Peter van Walsum had suggested. Autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty was a more viable solution, and designing a mutually acceptable autonomy regime should be the next step. The Government of Morocco had put forward a proposal to that effect, and it was to be hoped that the Polisario Front would engage in negotiations on its details, or else put forward an autonomy regime solution of its own.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said that, in adopting the present resolution, the international community had given due note to the prevailing impasse. An absence of progress in negotiations had made it hard to find a fair solution under the aegis of the United Nations and placed an obstacle in establishing a united Maghreb. The plan for autonomy put forward by Morocco was a good start. France had taken note of the assessment made by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, and voiced appreciation for the efforts on the part of the Secretary-General and his Envoy to resolve the problem. The Security Council had called for a spirit of realism and compromise to allow negotiations to reach a substantial stage. He hoped support from neighbouring countries could be mobilized, as called for in previous and current Council resolutions on the issue.
MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said the conflict in Western Sahara was of the greatest concern to his country, not just because it was an African problem, but also because of the potential danger it represented. Burkina Faso’s position on the issue was constant -- to encourage the parties to persevere on the path of negotiations, with assistance of the international community. The draft encouraged the parties to pursue the negotiations, and his delegation had supported it. Above all, it was important to send a signal of encouragement to the parties, so they continued negotiations in the spirit of good faith and compromise. He respected those who had expressed other points of view and hoped the resolution renewing the mandate of MINURSO would allow the negotiations between the parties to move forward, particularly on the issues of substance.
* *** *