Special Committee Dealing with Unfinished Business of Decolonization with Renewed Vigour, Members Told, as Situations in Disputed Territories Inform Debate
Special Committee Dealing with Unfinished Business of Decolonization with Renewed Vigour, Members Told, as Situations in Disputed Territories Inform Debate
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Special Committee on Decolonization
5th Meeting (AM)
Special Committee Dealing with Unfinished Business of Decolonization with Renewed
Vigour, Members Told, as Situations in Disputed Territories Inform Debate
Questions of Gibraltar, Western Sahara, Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Examined
An “eighteenth century attitude” prevailed in continued efforts by Spain to incorporate the disputed territory of Gibraltar – against the will of the Gibraltarian people - that Territory’s Chief Minister told the Special Committee on Decolonization this morning, as it considered the questions of Gibraltar, the Western Sahara and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*.
There was a new sense of urgency in the way the Special Committee was dealing with the “unfinished business” of the eradication of colonialism in the world’s 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, said Fabian Picardo. However, he warned that, in the case of Gibraltar, which was currently administered by the United Kingdom, the decolonization of the Territory’s people would only progress if they were permitted to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. The Gibraltarians had spoken with one voice on the matter, always dedicating themselves to ending colonialism in favour of achieving the maximum possible level of self-government short of independence, he said.
“Wake up and smell the coffee: Gibraltar will never be Spanish,” he urged. In the many years that the issue had been coming before the Special Committee, Spain had not, and never would, acknowledge any legal status of the current inhabitants of Gibraltar, much less their right to decide the future of their own land. Gibraltar regretted that the process of tripartite talks between it, the United Kingdom and Spain had been suspended by the new Spanish Government.
He further challenged Spain to receive an advisory opinion from a United Nations tribunal on the issue of the application to the people of Gibraltar of the principle of self-determination. Spanish Ambassadors who had come before the Special Committee knew that they were legally in the wrong, he said, adding, “that is why they are scared to test their feeble claims in court.” He also formally extended to the Special Committee an invitation to visit Gibraltar and to see that the reality of the Territory was very different from the position being put forth, over many years, by the representatives of Spain.
The positions of the two parties to that dispute – the United Kingdom and Spain – were laid out in a Secretariat working paper, which was before the Special Committee for its consideration this morning. As for the United Kingdom’s position, it states that the country would never allow Gibraltar’s people to pass under the sovereignty of another State against its wishes, or to enter into sovereignty negotiations that it opposed. Meanwhile, the Spanish position outlined in the working paper states that the principle of territorial integrity was at the core of the Gibraltar case. Spain felt the principle of self-determination did not apply to Gibraltar, as it was meant for peoples of colonized Territories, and not for settlers put in place by an occupying Power.
To that point, Fernando Arias, of the Spanish observer delegation, added that the United Nations had long recognized that the case of Gibraltar disrupted the unity and territorial integrity of Spain. While progress might occur relatively quickly in some cases before the Special Committee, there were others – such as the case of Gibraltar - for which the decolonizing task was more complex. The administering Power had admitted that the independence of its colony was not possible against the wishes of Spain. It was not realistic to assume that Spain would ever accept the perpetuation of the present situation, in which the administering Power and the colony sought to ignore Spain’s legitimate right to Gibraltar.
The United Nations had spent three decades calling on both the administering Power and Spain to resolve their differences through a bilaterally negotiated solution, he said. Despite the United Nations mandate, and through no fault of Spain’s, those negotiations had not taken place for some years. The responsibility for that failure fell entirely on the administering Power, which, for more than five years, had refused to talk to Spain. Spain was confident that the two countries could find imaginative ways to solve their differences without neglecting the interests of the colony’s inhabitants, he said.
The Special Committee also addressed the situation of the disputed North African territory known as the Western Sahara, with several States taking the floor to express their support of the Saharan people, who had been caught in the midst of the heated and sometimes violent dispute for more than 40 years. In that regard, the representative of South Africa stressed that the Western Sahara remained the last colony on the African continent.
He urged the Special Committee to ensure that safeguards were in place to prevent further transgressions of international law involving the exploitation of the natural resources of Saharans through bilateral agreements. “The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is a longstanding member of the African Union,” he said; its continued colonization stood in the way of African unity and constituted a major impediment to the development of the continent’s integration agenda.
Also speaking about that longstanding conflict was Ahmed Boukhari of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front), who said that the situation on the ground in his homeland was getting worse. Moroccan prisons were full of Saharan prisoners and many people were still awaiting trial before Moroccan military tribunals. Repression was now beyond horror and included the case of a citizen who disappeared only for his body to be found cut into four pieces outside the occupied city of Layoum. Those tragic circumstances had led to a request to the Security Council to authorize the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include human rights in its mandate. However, France’s opposition in the Council had prevented a positive response to that request, he said.
Also discussed was the matter of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), which had been the subject of yesterday’s meeting. In that regard, many delegations expressed their support for the statement made yesterday by Christina Fernández de Kirchner, the President of Argentina, to the effect that the situation required a peaceful, negotiated settlement between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The representative of Bolivia today agreed, while decrying British unilateral activities in the South Atlantic, such as military exercises and the exploration and exploitation of natural resources. Moreover, he said, Latin Americans “now stand together to ensure that we have a continent without any colonial wounds left”.
Statements on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) were also made by the representatives of Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Uruguay, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Peru and Colombia.
Speaking on the Western Sahara were the representatives of Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador.
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 18 June, to consider the question of Puerto Rico.
The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to continue its debate on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), and take up the questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara, for which it had before it a working paper of the Secretariat on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (document A/AC.109/2012/13). For a summary of that paper, see Press Release GA/COL/3238 of 14 June).
It also had before it a Secretariat working paper on Gibraltar (document A/AC.109/2012/14), a non-Self-Governing Territory administered by the United Kingdom extending southward from the southwest coast of Spain. The paper focuses on various constitutional, legal, political and budgetary issues, as well as economic and social conditions, and the future status of the Territory. Per the paper, the Governor, representing the British Crown, is responsible for the conduct of external affairs, defence, internal security and certain appointments conferred on him by the 2006Constitution. The Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party/Gibraltar Liberal Party alliance won the general elections held 8 December 2011, with 49 per cent of the votes, versus 47 per cent for the Gibraltar Social Democrats. The next election is to be held in 2015.
Negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain take place in a Forum for Dialogue on Gibraltar, the paper says, which was created in 2006 and has held three ministerial meetings: in 2006, 2008 and 2009. The ministerial meeting that was to be held in 2010 did not take place and no meetings have been held since.
On the future status of Gibraltar, the United Kingdom’s position, reaffirmed on 4 October 2011, outlined its commitment to never allow the Territory’s people to pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes, or to enter into sovereignty negotiations that they opposed. The United Kingdom had no doubt about its sovereignty over Gibraltar and its territorial waters, but was ready to consider any mechanism to advance negotiations that found favour with the Governments of Spain and Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s self-determination was not constrained by the Treaty of Utrecht, except insofar as article X gave Spain the right of refusal should the United Kingdom renounce sovereignty.
According to the paper, the position of the territorial Government of Gibraltar outlined that it was incomprehensible that Spain continued to deny Gibraltar its right to self-determination. Gibraltar rejected the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht because no bilateral treaty retained validity under international law if it conflicted with the Charter principle of self-determination by the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The United Kingdom’s support for the Treaty was equally discreditable. Calls by Spain for the United Kingdom to discuss the transfer of sovereignty of Gibraltar – in bilateral negotiations – would never be acceptable to Gibraltarians. Spain could not claim the Territory and the United Kingdom could not cede it.
Spain’s position, the paper says, outlined that the principle of territorial integrity was essential in the case of Gibraltar, as the General Assembly had made clear. The solution was the restitution of both the territory transferred from Spain under the Treaty of Utrecht and the land later occupied illegally by the United Kingdom. The principle of self-determination did not apply to Gibraltar, as it was meant for peoples of colonized Territories and not for settlers imposed by an occupying Power to the detriment of the original inhabitants. A political solution, based on negotiations that took into account the special circumstances of Gibraltar, would settle the issue.
The Special Committee also had before it a Secretariat working paper on the question of Western Sahara (document A/AC.109/2012/16), which focuses on the Secretary-General’s reports submitted to the General Assembly (document A/66/260) and to the Security Council (document S/2011/249).
In his 1 April 2011 report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General stated that, by the end of the four rounds of informal talks held from March 2010 to March 2011, no progress had been made on the future status of Western Sahara and the means by which the self-determination of Saharans was to occur. His Personal Envoy had undertaken a third visit to the region, from 17 to 25 March, where he met with the Heads of State of Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco, as well as the Secretary-General of the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamre y de Rio de Oro (Frente Polisario).
The report states, according to the paper, that the Personal Envoy and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) engaged unsuccessfully with the parties to seek a resolution that would pave the way to resume flights, following their suspension in March 2010. At the third round of informal talks, held on Long Island, New York, from 7 to 10 November 2010, the Frente Polisario and Morocco accused each other of escalating tensions and violating human rights, both in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camp area. “It was clear that, as in the past, neither party accepted the proposal of the other as the sole basis of future negotiations”, the report said.
In the fourth round of informal talks, held from 16 to 18 December 2010 in Long Island New York, the Personal Envoy called on the parties to create “a new dynamic in 2011” on the basis of regular meetings and to avoid actions that undermined the creation of an atmosphere of trust. At the fifth round, held from 21 to 23 January 2011, the parties made proposals for more than 12 innovative approaches and 10 subjects for discussion, but were unable to reach consensus on any subject, other than the “innovative approach” of having the Personal Envoy intensify his efforts.
The report says, according to the paper, that at the sixth round, held in Mellieha, Malta, from 7 to 9 March 2011, parties – on “subjects to be discussed” - agreed to examine two proposals: the mine clearance programme and the natural resources of Western Sahara and their use. On “innovative negotiating approaches” they agreed to examine: what constituted provocation and how to avoid it; measures to calm the situation; and diversified and complementary activities the Personal Envoy could undertake.
Following consideration of the report, on 27 April 2011, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1979 (2011), by which it reaffirmed the need for full respect of military agreements, and called on parties to reaffirm the need for those efforts, and to cooperate fully with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
The Secretary-General, in his report to the General Assembly, which covers the 1 July 2010 to 30 July 2011 period, states that parties had agreed to hold another round of informal talks in July 2011 to again examine the proposals of April 2007 and discuss one or more of the “innovative approaches” or “specific subjects”. As for maintenance of the ceasefire, the Secretary-General informed the Security Council that MINURSO had observed and recorded 126 new violations by the Royal Moroccan Army, a “considerable” increase from the 24 recorded in the previous reporting period.
In October 2011, the Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard 59 petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, and contributions from Member States. It approved a consensus draft text on “Question of Western Sahara”. In December, the Assembly adopted the draft without a vote, as resolution 66/86.
Statements on Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
RAFAEL ARCHONDO ( Bolivia) said that, yesterday, the Special Committee had heard a “courageous and convincing” statement by President Christina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, in which she described dreams of a world without colonialism. Latin Americans had taken in immigrants from all over the word and given them full rights, and those people had established free and sovereign States. For decades, the international community had faced the situation of a divided Malvinas. “We now stand together to ensure that we have a continent without any colonial wounds left”, he said. For 107 years, Spain and Argentina had exercised sovereignty, and then British troops had decided to expel their settlers from the Malvinas. That action constituted a colonial wound “that is still bleeding today”, he emphasized.
He said it was essential to ensure true Latin American integration. Bolivia, therefore, strongly supported the legitimate claims of Argentina over the Malvinas, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in that “special and particular colonial situation”. He recalled that the Organization of American States had issued a declaration on 5 June asking the parties to resume negotiations as soon as possible. Moreover, as philosopher John Locke had said, the use of violence could not be the basis for law. Bolivia rejected the military presence of the United Kingdom in that area, as well as its unilateral activities such as the exploration and exploitation of natural resources and military exercises in violation of General Assembly resolution 31/49 (1976). Bolivia was pleased, therefore, at the consensus adoption of yesterday’s resolution.
ELLEONORA TAMBUNAN ( Indonesia) said that her delegation upheld the view that universal criteria could not be applied to every situation of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as each case was unique. On the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), he urged negotiations based on the principle of territorial integrity, and in line with the resolutions and conventions of the United Nations.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( Côte d’Ivoire ) said that his country attached great importance to the decolonization questions. United Nations Member States had declared support for the principle of self-determination of all peoples. That was why his country had backed yesterday’s resolution. It believed, as in the past, that any solution to the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) that did not take into account the aspirations of the inhabitants of the Island would not be successful. Côte d’Ivoire, which had excellent relations with both Argentina and the United Kingdom, had said that it was in the interest of both parties to create conditions conducive to the resumption of negotiations that guaranteed conditions for future generations to flourish. He appealed for a return to the wisdom that had always prevailed in decisions by the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom and invited all parties to return to the negotiating table in order to achieve lasting solutions.
JENNY LALAMA-FERNANDEZ (Ecuador) said that the principle of territorial integrity, respect for the sovereignty of States and peaceful settlement of disputes were essential precepts in international relations, reiterating her country’s support for the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute. Ecuador had spoken out against the growing militarization of the South Atlantic by the United Kingdom, including the movement of nuclear submarines, as well as unilateral exploration activities and illegal exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources of the area in dispute, in violation of Argentina’s sovereignty and calls from the international community in General Assembly resolution 31/49, which urged against any unilateral modifications in the situation while the solution to the dispute was pending. Both the British militarization and unilateral activities mentioned had been rejected in several regional organizations, including the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), of which Ecuador was a participant. Ecuador emphatically supported the adoption, by consensus, of the draft resolution.
JOSE ALBERTO BRIZ (Guatemala), observer, expressed his delegation’s concern over the ongoing unilateral activities of the United Kingdom in the Argentine continental shelf, in violation of General Assembly resolution 31/49. That concern was shared, not only by Latin American and Caribbean countries, as evidenced in multiple regional forums, but also by all member nations of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, as declared in the Ministerial Declaration adopted in New York on 23 September 2011.
He said his country expected Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume bilateral negotiations, so as to promptly reach a just, peaceful, and lasting settlement to that sovereignty dispute, in accordance with the many relevant resolutions on the item. It was important to note that Argentina had permanently indicated its willingness to resolve the dispute in the manner indicated by the United Nations, namely, through negotiation and dialogue, he said, expressing the desire that the United Kingdom comply with the same calls for a peaceful settlement of the dispute to the benefit of both parties.
JOSE ANTONIO DOS SANTOS (Paraguay), observer, noted that the summit of Latin American and Caribbean States, which had taken place in October 2011 in Asuncion, had adopted a Declaration on the report that a British frigate had been moving through the South Atlantic to protect British interests. The Declaration rejected the holding of military exercises in the region as contrary to a peaceful solution to the question of the Malvinas. It stated that such a military presence contravened regional support for a peaceful solution to the question. It also confirmed an earlier declaration supporting the legitimate right of Argentina to the Malvinas in the dispute with the United Kingdom and a regional approach based on peaceful negotiation.
JOSE LIUS CANCELA (Uruguay), observer, expressed support for Argentina’s sovereignty rights over the Malvinas and said that the dispute related directly to the territorial integrity of Argentina, which had irrefutable title to the island it had inherited from Spain. The island had been legally occupied by Argentina since 1823. Both the General Assembly and the Special Political Committee had identified the dispute as a particular colonial issue involving Argentina and the United Kingdom and agreed that the only way of settling that dispute was through a peaceful and negotiated solution by the parties, taking into account the interests of the population there. It was important, therefore, for both parties to resume negotiations aimed at a peaceful, just and lasting solution in accordance with the relevant resolutions and declarations. The parties should refrain from taking decisions that would result in unilateral changes. That applied to activities for the exploitation of resources on the continental shelf.
SAUL WEISLEDER ( Costa Rica), observer, associating himself with Chile on behalf of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reaffirmed his country’s recognition of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands as an integral part of the territory of Argentina. Since 1833, that territory had been subjected to a violation stemming from a colonial dispute. Costa Rica had made international law and peaceful relationships with its neighbours a core principle. Recalling a recent meeting of the Organization of Ibero-American States, he read briefly from its outcome document, which had asked the parties to the Malvinas dispute to resume negotiations promptly in the framework of the resolutions of the United Nations and the Organization of American States – including the principle of territorial integrity. He emphasized the ongoing will for dialogue shown by Argentina in that regard, and asked the parties to refrain from unilateral actions that violated General Assembly resolution 31/49 (1976), as those in no way contributed to finding a peaceful solution to the dispute.
JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI (El Salvador), observer, reiterated his delegation’s position of principle that the question of the Malvinas, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime space belonged to Argentina. That view was broadly shared by the Special Committee and was based on the historical situation of the region, as well as on international law. A “first and historic step to understanding” must be reached between the two parties, in order to find a lasting solution to the dispute. The justification of the United Kingdom to stay in the region stemmed from “an attitude that history had rendered obsolete”, he said. El Salvador associated itself with the appeal of the international community to the United Kingdom that - together with Argentina - the negotiating process must be resumed as soon as possible to find a just, peaceful and lasting solution to the dispute, in keeping with relevant United Nations resolutions.
MILAGROS MIRANDA ROJAS (Peru), observer, said that the dispute over the Malvinas was based on legal and geographic factors stemming from facts of sovereignty and rights, which had been exercised until the islands had been taken over by force. Peru reiterated its support for a peaceful solution to the dispute and hoped that the two parties would resume negotiations as soon as possible in order to find a peaceful and lasting solution in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. He invited the United Nations to remain active in those negotiations in order to achieve the expected result. After the military conflict that had taken place 30 years ago, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution asking the Secretary-General to use his good offices on the dispute. Similar resolutions had been adopted by regional bodies in Latin America and the Caribbean. The solution to any dispute required the support of the parties involved. Argentina had always indicated its readiness to negotiate. Peru hoped that the United Kingdom would do the same.
FERNANDO ALZATE DONOSO ( Colombia), observer, reiterated his country’s support for Argentina’s claim in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas. He regretted that in spite of the time that had elapsed since the adoption of the General Assembly resolutions on the dispute, it had not yet been resolved. Colombia appealed for continued readiness of the parties to achieve a solution through a negotiated a peaceful settlement.
The Question of Gibraltar
FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said that he was the fourth born-and-bred Chief Minister to address the Special Committee. He welcomed the renewed international attention that appeared evident in the Committee’s work, and the impetus and sense of urgency that it was affording the “unfinished business” of the eradication of colonialism. “Our decolonization can progress only on the basis of the exercise by us of our inalienable right to self-determination,” he said. The people of Gibraltar had spoken with one voice on the matter, always dedicated to ending colonialism in favour of achieving the maximum possible level of self-government short of independence. That right “cannot be curtailed by the creation of any limiting doctrine in cases where the Territory in question was subjected to a sovereignty dispute”, as some had recently erroneously stated.
He said that very little had changed in the many years that Chief Ministers of Gibraltar had been addressing the Special Committee. Spain had not, and never would, acknowledge any legal status of the current inhabitants of Gibraltar, much less their right to decide the future of their own land. “How can twenty-first century Spain adopt this eighteenth-century attitude to the process of decolonization of Gibraltar?” he asked, adding that such an attitude was in contradiction with statements made by successive Foreign Ministers of Spain that Spain would not accept the delivery of the land of Gibraltar against the wishes of Gibraltarians.
“Wake up and smell the coffee: Gibraltar will never be Spanish,” he stressed. Yet, in recent months, the attitude of Spain’s Foreign Ministry had ignored the failures of the past and was working hard to secure even greater failures for the future. Gibraltar regretted that the process of tripartite talks between Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and Spain had been suspended by the new Spanish Government. In addition, he said, Gibraltar was currently suffering invasions of its “indisputable waters” around the area known as “the Rock” by the Spanish paramilitary force Guardia Civil. In fact, those waters had been recognized as belonging to Gibraltar by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said. Q Moreover, the Spanish were in breach, not only of that Convention, but also of good neighbourliness provisions of Article 74 of the United Nations Charter. He formally challenged Spain to act in keeping with the spirit of the Charter, in order to avoid the escalation of disputes.
Similarly, he challenged Spain to receive an advisory opinion on the issue of the application to the people of Gibraltar on the principle of self-determination. Spanish Ambassadors who had come before the Special Committee knew that they were legally in the wrong, he said, adding, “that is why they are scared to test their feeble claims in Court”, whether in respect of the right to self-determination or to its undisputable waters. He further formally extended to the Special Committee an invitation to visit Gibraltar and to see that the reality of the Territory was very different from the position being put to it by the representative of Spain. He also extended the possibility of organizing the next Seminar on the question of Gibraltar.
Current generations of Gibraltarians felt as strongly as those who had come before them, he said, stressing that the matter was not a problem that would “go away”. The Powers of the Government of Gibraltar had increased substantially since its Territory was first listed by the Special Committee, not least, since the creation of a new Constitution in 2006. In that regard, he asked the Special Committee whether it delivered to them the maximum possible level of self-government short of independence. If it did not, he asked the Special Committee to specify what changes were required to the Constitution in order to achieve that level. Finally, he said, Gibraltar remained strongly committed to the Trilateral Process of dialogue, he said, inviting Spain to “come back to the table and talk”. Indeed, he added, he respectfully invited Spain to “finally follow us into the twenty-first century and to drop its futile claim to Gibraltar”.
FERNANDO ARIAS (Spain), observer, said that while progress could occur relatively quickly in some of the cases before the Committee, there were others for which the decolonizing task was more complex because the legitimacy of the administering Power to exercise jurisdiction or to enjoy the sovereignty in those territories disputed with other States. His country concurred with the need to explore new ways to attain the objectives of the Committee, provided that such an exercise took into account the United Nations doctrine and resolutions relevant to each case, as well as the results of the examination they had been subjected to along many years. Different situations needed to be addressed differently.
Throughout the years, he said, the United Nations had recognised that the case of Gibraltar disrupted the unity and territorial integrity of Spain. The administering Power admitted that the independence of its colony was not possible against the wishes of Spain. Those two factors were more than enough reasons to consider that a negotiated solution was the way towards the decolonization of Gibraltar. It would not be realistic to assume, and base initiatives on the hypothesis, that Spain would ever accept the perpetuation of the present situation in which the administering Power and the colony sought to ignore Spain’s legitimate rights under the Treaty of Utrecht and the doctrine of the United Nations. The United Nations had spent three decades calling on both the administering Power and Spain to resolve their differences through a bilaterally negotiated solution. Despite the United Nations mandate, and through no fault of Spain’s, those negotiations had not taken place for some years. The responsibility for that failure fell entirely on the administering Power, which, for more than five years had refused to talk to Spain. Spain was confident that the two countries could find imaginative ways to solve their differences without neglecting the interests of the colony’s inhabitants.
The Question of the Western Sahara
YESSIKA COMESANA PERDOMO ( Cuba) said that the people of the Western Sahara had been suffering for more than 40 years. The Saharan people were the only ones who could decide their future, she stressed. There had been four rounds of formal those negotiations, although no progress on status had been made. The Saharan people needed the international community’s support. Cuba, with its few available resources, was committed to lending that support, in particular, in the area of education. She also called on Member States to offer study opportunities to students from Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Saharan people could always count on Cuba’s solidarity, she said
MARIAELENA ANZOLA PADRON ( Venezuela) said that it also stood in solidarity with the people of Western Sahara, as they sought to exercise their right to self-determination, which must be respected. Venezuela recognized the Saharawi Democratic Republic, and with the help of the United Nations, the people of that country would be able to exercise their right to self-determination. Resolution 1514 (1960) must be fully respected in that regard, and she urgently appealed to the Special Committee that, at its next session, to give more focus to that matter. It should approve the proposal to appoint a group to visit the territory, thereby providing updated information about how decolonization was actually perceived. Venezuela was disturbed that negotiations had not yet been successful, but trusted that they would proceed in accordance with the principles of the United Nations and its relevant resolutions.
JENNY LALAMA-FERNANDEZ ( Ecuador) also supported the right of the Saharan people to self-determination. She recalled an agreement in 2011 between Western Sahara and Morocco. The Secretary General had called on the Security Council to enhance the credibility of United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), and the Council had adopted a resolution in April calling for the freedom of movement of that Mission. The last round of negotiations in New York had indicated that talks would continue in June, and that a visit to the territory would take place. However, neither of those things had yet come to pass. Once again, she said, “we face a dangerous situation” as the United Nations sought to deal with one of the world’s remaining decolonization issues. Human rights were being violated, natural resources were being exploited and the promised referendum had not yet been held.
MANIEMAGENGOVENDER ( South Africa), observer, said that legality was on the side of the Saharan people in their quest for decolonization. International legal opinion had upheld their position and there were clear precepts for safeguarding the interests of non-self-governing peoples. The obligations of administering Powers were clearly spelt out in relevant international documents. It was on that basis that steps should be taken to improve the lot of the Saharans. South Africa believed that with the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism already under way, the need to address the situation should take on added urgency. The Saharan people were subjected to a double tragedy, and the Special Committee must take decisive steps to address their problems. The United Nations was obligated to protect their rights while working towards the Territory’s decolonization. The Security Council should ensure that MINURSO completed its mandate.
He said that Western Sahara remained the last colony on the African continent, and South Africa would continue to support the effort for a just solution to that situation. In that regard, it supported the adoption of the resolution on extending MINURSO’s mandate. He urged the Special Committee to ensure that safeguards were in place to prevent further transgressions of international law involving the exploitation of the natural resources of Saharans through bilateral agreements. “The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is a longstanding member of the African Union” and its continued colonization stood in the way of African unity and constituted a major impediment to development of the continent’s integration agenda.
AHMED BOUKHARI, representative of the Polisario Front, said that the situation on the ground in his homeland was getting worse. Moroccan prisons were full of Saharan prisoners and many Saharan people were still awaiting trial before Moroccan military tribunals. Repression was now beyond horror and included the case of a citizen who disappeared only for his body to be found cut into four pieces outside the occupied city of Layoum. The whereabouts of more than 600 people captured by Morocco were still unknown. Another 151 had been captured before the ceasefire, but nobody knew where they were. Those tragic circumstances had led to a request to the Security Council to authorize MINURSO to include human rights in its mandate. France’s opposition in the Council, however, had prevented a positive response to that request.
In April, he noted, the Secretary-General had reported that MINURSO had no freedom of movement or access to civilians. Those factors created serious doubts about the impartiality and neutrality of the Mission. The colony now faced a new and extremely dangerous situation. The last negotiations had taken place in March in New York. Over three decades had passed since the effort to end the colonization of the Territory had begun, but the problem was still pending. The promised referendum had not taken place. Morocco’s recent decision to end cooperation with the Secretary-General was frivolous. The Special Committee, therefore, must focus on those developments. It was necessary to have in-depth debate on the situation of decolonization in that last colonial territory in Africa.
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A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).