30 September 1997


30 September 1997

Press Release


19970930 Committee to Conduct Consultations on Proposal By Morocco to Defer Consideration of Situation in Western Sahara

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon elected Ravjaa Mounkhou (Mongolia) and Petru Dumitriu (Romania) as Vice-Chairmen. The election of the Rapporteur was postponed. The Chairman of the Committee, Machivenyika Tobias Mapuranga (Zimbabwe), was elected on 16 September.

Also this afternoon, the Committee adopted a 13-item programme of work for the current session. According to the programme, the Committee will begin its substantive work on Monday, 6 October, with a week-long debate on decolonization issues. The Committee will then address effects of atomic radiation; the situation in the occupied territories of Croatia; international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space; a comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations; questions relating to information; activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); and the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

After the adoption of the programme of work, the Chairman said that he had received requests for hearings from eight petitioners on decolonization issues relating to Guam and Western Sahara, as well as from the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and the Governor of Guam.

During the discussion of the programme of work, the representatives of Morocco and Qatar raised questions concerning the publication of summary records in languages other than English, French and Spanish. The representative of Morocco asked whether summary records of Committee's debates would be distributed only in the language in which they were prepared, and whether such records would be published in Arabic.

The Chairman said that summary records would be distributed in the language in which they were prepared, and later in other languages, so as not

to delay the work of the Committee. He would urge the Secretariat that the time elapsed between record preparation in original languages and subsequent languages be as brief as possible. Theoretically, summary records could be provided in Arabic, he said, adding that if the Committee found that practice unacceptable, it could change it.

The representative of Morocco said his delegation would accede to the Chairman's proposal, but would be vigilant to monitor the publication of records in languages other than English. The Chairman proposed that the Committee proceed on an experimental basis on that matter.

The representative of Morocco further asked how he might obtain information on the outcome of a recent seminar conducted by the Special Committee on decolonization, as well as on other documents on the matter of decolonization, specifically a report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara. Which period would be covered by that report, in consideration of recent developments in Western Sahara? he asked. How would the Committee proceed if its documents were not up to date? Last year, some information on the situation in Western Sahara had been outdated, particularly concerning registration of voters for the proposed self- determination referendum for Western Sahara, he added. In order to avoid undermining the positive results of recent developments concerning Western Sahara, he proposed that the Committee defer consideration of the matter, pending completion of the referendum.

The Chairman suggested that the representative of Morocco reiterate his proposal when the Committee considered the issue, once its substantive debate began.

The Committee Secretary, Mohammad Sattar, said that document A/AC.109/2089 contained the report on the Special Committee seminar to which the representative of Morocco referred, and added that the Secretary-General's reports on Western Sahara would be available by next week.

The representative of Algeria said an organizational meeting was not the right time to consider issues of substance on the matter of Western Sahara. The matter had been taken up by the Security Council. The issue was not completed; rather, it was for the General Assembly to consider when it was completed. The representative of Senegal said the question raised by Morocco was relevant. Would the situation in Western Sahara be taken up later, given recent positive developments on the issue? he asked.

The Chairman said the Committee's substantive session would begin on 6 October. Proposals about possible deletion of agenda items could be taken up then.

Fourth Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/SPD/106 2nd Meeting (PM) 30 September 1997

The representative of Algeria, speaking on a point of order, said matters of substance were not before the Committee, and his delegation would not discuss it at an organizational meeting.

The representative of Morocco, also speaking on a point of order, said Algeria had not raised a point of order, but a point of position. His delegation had not intended a discussion of substance, but of the Committee's programme of work. He had not proposed that the matter not be considered, but be deferred so as not to impact recent positive developments. Western Sahara was "still Moroccan". Debate would have negative impact on recent developments. The Security Council would consider the matter in the next three weeks. His proposal was one of organization, not substance.

The Chairman said "there may be justification in Morocco's proposal" to defer the item's consideration, but the second meeting of the Committee was not the moment to discuss it, as that would invoke discussion of substantive matters. Morocco would have an opportunity to re-table the matter when debate on decolonization began.

The representative of Morocco suggested that the Committee conduct consultations on the matter of Western Sahara before the Committee began its debate on decolonization matters. The Chairman accepted his proposal.

He also asked for a list of those who had requested to be heard as petitioners on the question of Western Sahara. The Chairman requested the Secretariat to make the names available. The representative of Morocco then said that if the names of the petitioners were known, they should be read out to the Committee.

The representative of Algeria said a similar question had faced the Committee in 1995, when it was decided that all delegations would be given names at the same time. Decision on that matter rested with the Chairman, not particular delegations. Distribution of petitioners' names should be made at an appropriate point.

The Chairman said petitioners's names were not a secret. He advised Leslie Wilkinson, Committee Deputy Secretary, to read a 28 September letter containing petitioners' names. She did so.

The Chairman also noted an 18 September letter from the Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, Utula Utuoc Samana (Papua New Guinea), which concerned the transfer of the Decolonization Unit from the Department of Political Affairs to the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 6 October, to begin its general debate on decolonization issues.

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For information media. Not an official record.