The Security Council decided this afternoon to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2018.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2351 (2017), the Council called on the parties to the Western Sahara conflict to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, in order to facilitate a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.
By other terms of the text, the 15-member Council called on the parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO, and to take the necessary steps to ensure unhindered movement for United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate. Reaffirming the need to fully respect military agreements reached with MINURSO on the ceasefire and calls for full adherence to those accords, the Council recognized that the recent crisis in the Guerguerat buffer strip raised fundamental questions about the ceasefire and related agreements.
Emphasizing the importance of the parties’ commitment to continuing the preparations for a fifth round of negotiations, the Council called upon them to demonstrate the political will to work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations, and to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions.
The Council encouraged the parties to resume cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to review and, where possible, expand confidence-building measures. It urged Member States to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees were adequately addressed. It also supported an increase in the ratio of medical personnel within the current uniformed authorization, as requested in the Secretary-General’s most recent report to address MINURSO’s severely overstretched medical capacity.
Delivering remarks after the vote were representatives of the United States, Uruguay, Sweden, Senegal, Ethiopia, China, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Bolivia, Japan, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
The meeting began at 6:15 p.m. and at 7:05 p.m.
MICHELE SISON (United States), Council President for April, spoke in her national capacity, emphasizing that peacekeeping missions should support political solutions, said that postponing the vote had been the key to allowing the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to close out the 2016 chapter in the territory. The United States was pleased with the mandate renewal, which helped in returning the Council’s attention where it belonged — supporting a political process to resolve the situation on the ground. Emphasizing that the situation must change, she said the Council must look at the “big picture” in Western Sahara, including the absence of any political process for many years, she said. The resolution demonstrated the importance of the parties working with the United Nations to return to the table. The Mission must be able to hire the right staff in order to be as effective as possible, and to adjust components that were not working, as well as they should. The United States would watch closely to see what happened on the ground, she said.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) noted that the question of Western Sahara predictably came before the Security Council once a year, although the situation rarely created a media sensation. He called for regular information on the functionality of MINURSO, which had been affected by the expulsion of its staff. Since 1963, he recalled, the United Nations had recognized Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory in the process of decolonization. Uruguay supported the proposed renewed negotiating process and encouraged the parties to take steps for the creation of a lasting political solution.
CARL SKAU (Sweden) said the resolution represented a real opportunity to resolve one of the longest-standing issues on the Security Council’s agenda. “We can now turn the page,” he added, emphasizing that the resolution sent a strong signal that the time had come to resume negotiations. It provided strong support to the Secretary-General. “This is really diplomacy for peace in action,” he said, stressing the urgent need to resume the political process, which had been at a standstill for far too long. Sweden looked forward to working with the new Envoy, once appointed. Furthermore, the participation of women would inject a new energy into the political process, he said, adding that the resolution also sent a clear signal that it was critical to respect the ceasefire, and that violations would not be accepted.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said that concerns reiterated in the text demonstrated the Council’s commitment to finding a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. Cooperation between Morocco and the Secretariat had produced progress, he said, expressing hope that cooperation with other parties could be guided by realistic steps. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s intention to relaunch the negotiation process, he noted the independence plan proposed by Morocco, describing it as a serious and credible solution. It should be taken into account as negotiations resumed, he added.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) noted that the Secretary-General appeared committed to relaunching the peace process. However, it was important to restore the functionality of the Mission, the role of which had become increasingly important as the situation developed on the ground. Both parties should be called upon to honour the commitments they had made in previous agreements and refrain from any action that would further undermine peace efforts. The Security Council must understand the full context of the situation on the ground in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable political solution.
ZHANG DIANBIN (China) said the Western Sahara issue was complicated, but it was important to create conditions of stability and to take steps towards a political solution. China had always held a position of objectivity and impartiality on the issue, and would continue to support efforts by the United Nations to find a political solution, he added.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the pooled efforts of the Secretary-General and the Council had produced the desired results in Al-Guergarat, and the page could be turned on the crisis. It was now important to respect the ceasefire in all cases, he emphasized. The Council’s support for resuming the political process was unambiguously expressed in the resolution, as was the important role of neighbouring countries in finding a solution, he said.
PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said today’s forward-looking resolution marked an important step towards a solution to the decades-long conflict. The United Kingdom also welcomed the strong commitment and support for the Secretary-General’s relaunch of the negotiating process with the aim of finding a lasting political solution. It was clear that the issue could only be resolved through progress on the political track, he said.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) expressed hope that recent developments, as well as the resolution could build the required momentum towards rapid resumption of the political process.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said he trusted that the parties would resume a political process leading to a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. Bolivia was committed to continuing efforts to ensure that the people of Western Sahara could pursue their right to self-determination, he said, noting his country’s strong ties with both the people of Morocco and those of Western Sahara, and believed that dialogue was the only legitimate way for the world’s peoples to live in peace.
YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) voiced appreciation for the Secretary-General’s efforts to resolve the Al-Guergarat crisis and to ensure resumption of the political process. Emphasizing his country’s eagerness to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping, he said the Council must assess whether deployments were adequately linked to realities on the ground, and stressed the importance of linking political processes to mandates.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that while he understood that the text did not address all the concerns of some Council members, the document demonstrated the Council’s effort to revive the political process in Western Sahara. Calling on all parties to rise to their shared responsibility, he urged them to refrain from actions that may undermine the ceasefire agreement.
PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said the Council’s unified position must send both parties a clear message of the need to resume direct talks. Antagonism would only be overcome through a political solution, he added, emphasizing that Western Sahara conflict had an adverse impact on security in the Maghreb.
The full text of resolution 2351 (2017) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling and reaffirming 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), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), 2218 (2015), and 2285 (2016),
“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 the neighbouring states to cooperate more fully with the United Nations and with each other and to strengthen their involvement to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,
“Recognizing that achieving a political solution to this long-standing dispute and enhanced cooperation between the Member States of the Maghreb Arab Union would contribute to stability and security in the Sahel region,
“Welcoming the efforts of the Secretary-General to keep all peacekeeping operations, including the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), under close review and reiterating the need for the Council to pursue a rigorous, strategic approach to peacekeeping deployments, and effective management of resources,
“Emphasizing the need to regularly evaluate MINURSO’s performance such that the mission retains the skills and flexibility needed to effectively carry out its mandate,
“Further emphasizing that hiring, retention and assignment processes of the United Nations for MINURSO should allow for mission structures to quickly and easily adapt to changing operational environments, and noting the Secretary-General’s intention to reform these processes to make the Organization more nimble,
“Recognizing the important role played by MINURSO on the ground and the need for it to fully implement its mandate, including its role in supporting the Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution,
“Expressing concern about the violations of existing agreements, and calling on the parties to respect their relevant obligations,
“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,
“Encouraging in this context, the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution including by expanding upon their discussion of each other’s proposals and further encouraging the neighbouring countries to make contributions to the political process,
“Taking note of the four rounds of negotiations held under the auspices of the Secretary-General and recognizing the importance of the parties committing to continue the negotiations process,
“Encouraging the parties to resume cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in implementing the January 2012 updated Plan of Action on Confidence-Building Measures, including programmes focused on linking people who have been divided for more than 40 years due to the conflict and further encouraging the parties to consider additional appropriate confidence-building measures,
“Stressing the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, and encouraging the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights, bearing in mind their relevant obligations under international law,
“Encouraging the parties to continue in their respective efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps, including the freedoms of expression and association,
“Welcoming in this regard, the recent steps and initiatives taken by Morocco, and the role played by the National Council on Human Rights Commissions operating in Dakhla and Laayoune, and Morocco’s interaction with Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council,
“Commending the technical visit of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Western Sahara in April 2015, and to the Tindouf refugee camps in July-August 2015, and strongly encouraging enhancing cooperation with OHCHR, including through facilitating further visits to the region,
“Noting with deep concern the continued hardships faced by Sahrawi refugees and their dependency on external humanitarian assistance, and further noting insufficient funding for those living in Tindouf refugee camps and the risk of potential reductions in food assistance,
“Reiterating its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and emphasizing efforts be made in this regard,
“Stressing the importance of a commitment by the parties to continue the process of negotiations through the United Nations-sponsored talks and encouraging the meaningful participation of women in these,
“Recognizing that the consolidation of the status quo is not acceptable, and noting further that progress in the negotiations is essential in order to improve the quality of life of the people of Western Sahara in all its aspects,
“Expressing gratitude for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Ambassador Christopher Ross, throughout his tenure, and affirming its continued full support for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara in facilitating negotiations between the parties, and calling on the parties and neighbouring States to cooperate fully with the Personal Envoy,
“Affirming full support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc,
“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 10 April 2017 (document S/2017/307),
“1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2018;
“2. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire and calls on the parties to adhere fully to those agreements;
“3. Recognizes that the recent crisis in the buffer strip in Guerguerat raises fundamental questions related to the ceasefire and related agreements and encourages the Secretary-General to explore ways that such questions can be resolved;
“4. Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO, including its free interaction with all interlocutors, and to take the necessary steps to ensure the security of, as well as unhindered movement and immediate access for the United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate, in conformity with existing agreements;
“5. Emphasizes the importance of the parties’ commitment to continue the process of preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, and recalls its endorsement of the recommendation in the report of 14 April 2008 (S/2008/251) that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to achieve progress in negotiations, and encourages the neighbouring countries to make important contributions to this process;
“6. Calls upon the parties to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), and 2218 (2015), and the success of negotiations;
“7. Affirms its full support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy towards a solution to the question of Western Sahara in this context to relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit leading to the resumption of a political process with the aim of reaching a 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;
“8. Calls upon the parties to resume 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;
“9. Invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to these talks;
“10. Requests the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council on a regular basis, and at least twice a year, on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices, on the implementation of this resolution, challenges to MINURSO’s operations and steps taken to address them, expresses its intention to meet to receive and discuss his briefings and in this regard, and further requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period;
“11. Further requests the Secretary-General to update the Security Council within six months of the appointment of the new Personal Envoy on: (i) ways in which the Personal Envoy, working with the parties, is progressing towards a 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 present a clear path forward; (ii) how MINURSO’s performance measures are being developed and implemented; (iii) how structures and staffing can be reorganized to achieve mission goals efficiently; and (iv) how new technologies are being considered to reduce risk, improve force protection and better implement the mandate of MINURSO;
“12. Encourages the parties to resume cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to review, and where possible, expand confidence-building measures;
“13. Urges Member States to provide new and additional voluntary contributions to fund food programmes to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees are adequately addressed and avoid reductions in food rations;
“14. 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 predeployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;
“15. Supports an increase in the ratio of medical personnel within the current uniformed authorization as requested in the most recent report of the Secretary-General to address the severely overstretched medical capacity of MINURSO;
“16. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”