31 October 2005
Security Council, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1634 (2005), Extends Western Sahara Mission until 30 April 2006
NEW YORK, 28 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this morning decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for six months, until 30 April 2006.
Reiterating its call upon the parties to work towards ending the current impasse and to make progress towards a political solution, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1634 (2005), which also called on Member States to consider making contributions to fund confidence-building measures that allow for increased contact between family members separated by the dispute.
The 14-year-old Mission in Western Sahara has been monitoring a ceasefire between the Moroccan Government and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), and is seeking to organize a referendum for the self-determination of the former Spanish colony which Morocco has claimed as its own.
Through the preambular section of today's resolution, the Council said it was taking note of the POLISARIO Front's August 2005 release of the remaining 404 Moroccan prisoners of war and calling upon the parties to continue to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resolve the fate of persons unaccounted for.
The meeting began at 10:18 a.m. and ended at 10:20 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1634 (2005) reads, as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara, including resolution 1495 (2003) of 31 July 2003, resolution 1541 (2004) of 29 April 2004, and resolution 1598 (2005) of 28 April 2005,
"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 to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,
"Taking note of the POLISARIO Front's 18 August 2005 release of the remaining 404 Moroccan prisoners of war in compliance with international humanitarian law, and calling upon the parties to continue to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross to resolve the fate of persons who are unaccounted for since the beginning of the conflict,
"Welcoming the appointment of the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara Peter van Walsum, and noting that he recently completed consultations in the region,
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 17 October 2005 (S/2005/648),
"1. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire;
"2. Calls on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund Confidence-Building Measures that allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family unification visits;
"3. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2006;
"4. Requests that the Secretary-General provide a report on the situation in the Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period and requests the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy to provide a briefing, within three months of the adoption of the resolution, on the progress of his efforts;
"5. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (document S/2005/648), in which he, in view of the prevailing situation, recommends that the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for a further six months, until 30 April 2006.
During the reporting period, the deadlock between the parties over how to achieve a mutually acceptable solution that would enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination has persisted. Recently, the Government of Morocco reiterated its readiness to conduct negotiations that would lead to the granting of autonomy to the Territory under Moroccan sovereignty. For its part, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) continued to support the implementation of the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara, presented to the parties in 2003 by the Secretary-General's former Personal Envoy, James Baker.
Regrettably, states the report, the positions of the parties with regard to a settlement remained far apart during the reporting period. The lack of progress was compounded by the overall tense political climate in the region. In addition to harsh public statements from the parties, demonstrations and allegations of human rights abuses in the Territory suggest that the situation could deteriorate further in the absence of a mutually acceptable solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
It is up to the parties, the Secretary-General states, to take strategic decisions that would define, among other things, the role that the United Nations could play to assist them in overcoming their differences. He urges them, after years of stalemate, to demonstrate the necessary flexibility and to cooperate in good faith with his new Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum of the Netherlands. In the same vein, the Secretary-General calls on neighbouring States and international partners to provide all necessary support to his Personal Envoy's mission. In the meantime, it is important that all concerned stop inflammatory statements and refrain from taking any action that would further complicate the search for a solution or cause additional friction.
Violations by the parties of military agreement No. 1 continue to be a matter of serious concern, the report continues. While measures described in the report are expected to enhance the Mission's capability to monitor compliance with the agreement, it remains the responsibility of the parties to ensure that violations are not committed by their military/security forces. In that regard, an understanding has been reached with the parties on the possibility of reviewing the military agreements to better respond to realities on the ground. Any changes to the agreements would have to be mutually acceptable and remain consistent with the principle that military forces should maintain the status quo during the ceasefire and that MINURSO military observers should be allowed to exercise full freedom of movement, in accordance with basic peacekeeping principles.
According to the report, MINURSO has also been instructed to propose to the parties the establishment of a joint military verification commission, which would include their representatives and MINURSO, to allow for the exchange of information and transparency in the implementation of the ceasefire.
The Secretary-General welcomes the release by the POLISARIO Front of the remaining 404 Moroccan prisoners of war, some of whom had been in captivity for over 20 years. He hopes that this positive step will help to create an atmosphere conducive to ending the current impasse and paving the way for the long-awaited progress towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to the conflict. The Secretary-General appeals to both parties to cooperate fully with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in accounting for those who are still missing in relation to the conflict.
Despite the delays, the Secretary-General notes that he is encouraged that all concerned have now agreed to the resumption of the exchange of family visits, thereby allowing thousands of individuals in the Territory and the camps in the Tindouf area to benefit from this humanitarian programme. He also looks forward to the implementation, as soon as possible, of the other basic confidence-building measures, particularly the mail service and the organization of seminars involving members of civil society in both the Territory and the refugee camps in the Tindouf area.
The Secretary-General also notes his concern regarding allegations of human rights abuses by the parties, whether in the Territory or in the Tindouf area refugee camps. While MINURSO has neither the mandate nor the resources to address the issue, the United Nations, as an organization, is dedicated to upholding international human rights standards. It is in that context that the High Commissioner for Human Rights intends to approach the parties and Algeria, as the country of asylum, with a view to exploring what action may be needed in that regard.
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