SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS UN MISSION FOR REFERENDUM
IN WESTERN SAHARA UNTIL 31 JANUARY 2004
Resolution 1513 (2003) Adopted Unanimously
NEW YORK, 28 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 January 2004.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1513 (2003), the Council took this action on the recommendation of the Secretary-General, made in his report on the situation in the Western Sahara (document S/2003/1016) to accede to a request from Morocco to give it more time to reflect and consult on a peace plan that would provide for self-determination of the Territory -- the status of which would be determined by a referendum under United Nations auspices. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) had accepted the plan on 6 July.
The meeting, which started at 3:10 p.m., was adjourned at 3:14 p.m.
The full text of resolution 1513 (2003) reads, as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara, and reaffirming, in particular, resolution 1495 (2003) of 31 July 2003,
“1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 January 2004;
“2. Requests that the Secretary-General provide a report on the situation before the end of the present mandate;
“3. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
The Security Council convened this afternoon to consider the situation concerning the Western Sahara, as the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was to expire 31 October at midnight.
The United Nations has been seeking a settlement in Western Sahara since the withdrawal of Spain in 1976 and the ensuing fighting between Morocco, which had “reintegrated” the Territory, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), supported by Algeria. Mauritania renounced all claims to Western Sahara in 1979. In that same year, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) also became active in seeking a peaceful solution of the conflict.
In 1985, the United Nations Secretary-General, in cooperation with the OAU, initiated a mission of good offices leading to “the settlement proposals”. In 1990, the Security Council approved the Secretary-General’s settlement proposals and the outline of the Secretary-General’s Plan for implementing them. On 29 April 1991, it established MINURSO. The Plan provided for a transitional period during which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would have sole and exclusive responsibility over all matters relating to a referendum, in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
MINURSO’s Identification Commission was established in May 1993. Although the identification process has been completed, the parties continue to hold divergent views regarding the appeals process, the repatriation of refugees and other crucial aspects of the Plan.
In January this year, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, James Baker III, presented a plan to the parties, the Government of Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, as well as to the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania. That plan provides for self-determination -- the status of which would be determined by a referendum under United Nations auspices, four to five years after the signing of the plan by the interested parties, the neighbouring countries, and the Organization.
According to a Report from the Secretary-General on the situation concerning the Western Sahara (document S/2003/1016) before the Council, the POLISARIO Front officially accepted the plan as presented to it by 6 July. The most significant objection of Morocco to the plan concerned one of the two ballot choices in the planned referendum: a choice for independence, although the two ballot choices reflected those previously agreed to by the parties in the settlement plan (document S/21360). The other ballot choice was for integration into Morocco.
In early July, an adjusted text of the peace plan was circulated that added a third ballot choice providing for continuation of the division of authority set out in the peace plan -- in other words, self-government or autonomy. However, Morocco has thus far not relinquished its opposition to the peace plan.
In his report, the Secretary-General states that the peace plan represented “a fair and balanced approach to the question of Western Sahara, providing each side some, but perhaps not all, of what it wants”. If the parties were not prepared to make the compromises necessary to reach a successful outcome to the conflict, the latest initiative would suffer the same fate as earlier ones. The acceptance of the peace plan by the POLISARIO Front now offers a window of opportunity for solving the long-standing dispute. The Secretary-General urges Morocco to seize the opportunity and positively engage in the process by accepting and implementing the plan.
In that context, the Secretary-General says he has agreed to accede to Morocco’s request for more time to reflect and consult before giving its final response and recommends extending the mandate of MINURSO until 31 January 2004. He hopes, by that time, Morocco will be in a position to engage positively in implementing the plan. If not, he will revert to the Council in January with his views on the future of the peace process, as well as on the mandate of MINURSO.
The Secretary-General in his report observes that the release on 1 September of 243 Moroccan prisoners of war and recent agreements regarding implementation of confidence-building measures were steps forward in fostering a positive atmosphere between the parties. He calls upon the POLISARIO Front to ensure the immediate release of the remaining 914 prisoners of war, some of whom have been in detention for more than 20 years. He calls on Morocco to ensure the clarification of the status of remaining unaccounted-for individuals.
The Secretary-General calls on both parties to proceed without further delay to implement confidence-building measures mentioned in his report, including mail and telephone service between refugee camps and the Territory, and exchange of family visits. He appeals to the international community to provide generous support to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in order that they may meet the needs of the Saharan refugees.
Responding to the above report, in a letter dated 21 October addressed to the President of the Security Council, the Permanent Representative of Morocco writes that the Secretariat has deliberately misinterpreted Council resolution 1495 (2003). It is incorrect, he says, to infer from that resolution that Morocco is expected to simply sign the Personal Envoy’s plan and take “concrete measures” towards “implementation of the peace plan”, although negotiations provided for by the Security Council have not yet taken place.
The letter also takes issue with the Secretariat’s depiction of Morocco’s objections to the Personal Envoy’s proposal, which, it says, were not met by the amendment he introduced. Morocco’s objections concern, instead, the entire architecture of the proposed framework, which is more a product of the Settlement Plan -- a plan that is demonstrably unworkable -- than of the quest for a third way, or a definitive political solution that would respect the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Also by that letter, Morocco calls on the Security Council to put an end to “the dangerous turn” it says the process has taken at a crucial stage. It urges the Council to help the parties arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, as opposed to the imposition of the plan advocated by the report.
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