1 May 2006
Security Council Extends Western Sahara Mission until 31 October 2006, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1675 (2006)
NEW YORK, 28 April (UN Headquarters) -- Reaffirming the need to respect fully the military agreements reached with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) regarding the ceasefire in the disputed Territory, the Security Council decided this morning to extend the Mission's mandate until 31 October.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1675 (2006), the Council requested the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period. It also called on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures that would allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family unification visits.
Requesting the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to achieve actual compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, the Council urged troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action, including the conduct of predeployment awareness training, and to take disciplinary and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1675 (2006) 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 1634 (2005) of 28 October 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,
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 19 April 2006 (S/2006/249),
"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. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period;
"4. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to achieve actual compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, including the development of strategies and appropriate mechanisms to prevent, identify and respond to all forms of misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse, and the enhancement of training for personnel to prevent misconduct and ensure full compliance with the United Nations code of conduct, requests the Secretary-General to take all necessary action in accordance with the Secretary-General's Bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (ST/SGB/2003/13) and to keep the Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action, including the conduct of predeployment awareness training, and to take disciplinary action and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;
"5. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2006;
"6. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
Explanation of Vote
JOHN BOLTON (United States), whose delegation sponsored the resolution, said the Council must continually monitor the Mission's capability to monitor the ceasefire, taking into account the limited resources available. A settlement of the Western Sahara dispute would enhance the stability and economic prosperity of the Maghreb. If the dispute remained unresolved, it would continue to be the primary impediment to regional stability. The United States urged the parties to work with the United Nations in a spirit of flexibility and compromise. Hopefully, there would be significant progress in the next six months towards a diplomatic settlement of a dispute that had already gone on for too long.
PAUL JOHNSTON (United Kingdom) said his delegation agreed with the Secretary-General's approach regarding the need for direct negotiations between the parties. The United Kingdom supported plans by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to send a delegation to the region and hoped there would be progress in the peace process before the next mandate renewal was due, so that there would be no need for a further renewal.
LARS FAABORG-ANDERSEN (Denmark) said that maintaining the status quo carried the risk of renewed hostilities and urged all parties to engage in dialogue in order to move beyond the current impasse. Denmark fully reiterated the need for full respect for human rights and welcomed the intended Mission by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan) said that, given the importance of the role that the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy were playing, his delegation would continue to support their efforts.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the Security Council must send a clear message to the parties so they could seek a lasting solution to the stagnated situation that had continued for so long. Direct negotiations were the ideal way forward in finding a solution to the Western Sahara dispute under the United Nations Charter. Argentina hoped that the visit planned by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights would be able to investigate claims and submit a report.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the Council's renewal of MINURSO's mandate was the right decision because the Mission continued to play a useful and stabilizing role. It was to be hoped that the parties would use the next few months to renew dialogue. Direct negotiations offered the only credible means to resolve the current impasse and Morocco's announced proposals were an important new development.
PETER BURIAN (Slovakia) said he hoped the parties would use the next six months to resume dialogue in order to find a final solution based on direct negotiations. In addition, adequate attention must be paid to human rights.
TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said that the right of Western Sahara's people to self-determination could not be subjected to any preconditions. As it was, that right had gone unfulfilled for far too long and the next six months would, hopefully, see the fulfilment of that right.
Before the Council was the Secretary-General's report on the situation concerning Western Sahara (document S/2006/249) dated 19 April 2006 and covering the period since his last report dated 13 October 2005 (document S/2005/648). In it, the Secretary-General states his belief that MINURSO continues to play a key stabilizing and ceasefire-monitoring role and recommends the extension of its mandate for a further six months until 31 October 2006. He expresses the hope that the parties will reflect on the need for actions that may lead to a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.
The Secretary-General recalls that his Personal Envoy, briefing the Council on 18 January, pointed out that after Morocco's April 2004 rejection of the Peace Plan, because it could not accept a referendum that included independence as an option, the Plan had never again been mentioned in a Council resolution. Nor had any country with close ties to Morocco apparently used its influence to persuade the Kingdom to reconsider. The Personal Envoy had concluded that the Council was firm in its opinion that it could only contemplate a consensual solution to the Western Sahara question. In that context, he could not see how he could draft a new plan, as Morocco would reject it from the outset unless it excluded the independence option. On the other hand, the United Nations could not endorse a plan that excluded a genuine referendum, while claiming to provide for the self-determination of the Sahrawi people.
However, the Personal Envoy considered that what was unthinkable in a plan endorsed or approved by the Council might not be beyond the reach of direct negotiations, the Secretary-General says. Once the Council recognized the political reality that Morocco would not be forced to give up its claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara, it would realize that only two options remained: indefinite prolongation of the current deadlock in anticipation of a different political reality; or direct negotiations between the parties. The Personal Envoy rejected the first option, calling the current impasse a recipe for violence, which would not lead to an independent Western Sahara, but would more likely condemn another generation of Sahrawis to growing up in the camps of Tindouf. What remained were direct negotiations, without preconditions, aimed at working out a compromise between international legality and political reality that would produce a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution and provide for self-determination.
After years of reliance on United Nations-sponsored plans, it should be made clear to both parties that the Organization was taking a step back and that the responsibility now rested with them, the Secretary-General says. However, there was a consensus in the Council that any solution must be found in the framework, or under the auspices, of the United Nations. The Personal Envoy urged the Council to invite Algerian participation in the negotiations and called on Council members who had been supporting Morocco's position to do all in their power to make the negotiations succeed. But in bilateral consultations following the 18 January briefing, the Frente POLISARIO reiterated that it would, under no circumstances, negotiate about any kind of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. The Personal Envoy clarified that he had spoken in his briefing of negotiations without preconditions, which meant there would be no precondition that the Frente POLISARIO first recognize Morocco's sovereignty and then discuss Morocco's "granting" of autonomy.
Recalling the 16 October 1975 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the Secretary-General notes its conclusion that there were no valid reasons why the rules for decolonization and self-determination should not apply to Western Sahara. A solution to the Western Sahara question could only be achieved if the parties worked to seek a mutually acceptable compromise based on relevant principles of international law and current political realities. The parties could work out such a compromise if they engaged in a constructive dialogue on that basis.
The Secretary-General notes that the main obstacle may not exist in the positions adopted by the parties, adding that since his 18 January briefing, his Personal Envoy has become even more conscious of the forces outside the region that militate against the negotiations option. While no country will state or admit that it favours a continuing impasse, there seem to be two factors at play in most capitals: (a) Western Sahara is not high on the local political agenda; and (b) great store is set by continuing good relations with Morocco and Algeria. Combined, those two factors constitute a powerful temptation to acquiesce to the continuing impasse, at least for another number of years. As long as Western Sahara does not advance on their political agendas, many countries will find the status quo to be more tolerable than any of the possible solutions.
Stressing that the Secretary-General cannot wait for the Western Sahara question to deteriorate from being a source of potential instability in the region to becoming a threat to international peace and security, the Secretary-General says that, instead, both the Council and the its individual member States should now rise to the occasion and do all in their power to help negotiations get off the ground. The objective of negotiations between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO as parties and Algeria and Mauritania as neighbouring countries must be a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for self-determination.
According to the Secretary-General, a prolongation of the current deadlock might lead to a deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara, as signalled by continued demonstrations and allegations of human rights abuses. Expressing particular concern about reported heavy-handed responses to recent demonstrations in the Territory, including the detention of several individuals, he reiterates that although MINURSO has neither the mandate nor the resources to address the issue, the United Nations remains committed to upholding international human rights standards.
In that context, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights proposed to the parties last year the deployment of a mission to Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, as well as to Algeria as the country of asylum. It would gather information on the human rights situation and propose measures through which the United Nations might be able better to assist in addressing human rights concerns. All concerned have now accepted the proposals, and following further consultations on the date, Morocco has indicated that it would be prepared to receive the mission around 15 May 2006.
Remaining concerned by the dangers for civilian demonstrators coming close to or within the buffer strip and restricted areas around the berm, the Secretary-General says sufficient notification of demonstrations should be given to MINURSO to enable the Mission to assist in averting the possibility of potentially serious injuries, and to make sure that United Nations observers reach the location of the demonstrations in a timely manner. Meanwhile, he commends the Frente POLISARIO initiative to destroy a large portion of its stockpile of anti-personnel mines and calls on both sides to undertake similar efforts, with MINURSO's assistance.
The Secretary-General describes the conflict's human dimension, including the plight of refugees, as a growing concern and welcomes the resumption of the exchange of family visits between Western Sahara and the refugee camps in the Tindouf area. Building on the success of these visits, he encourages all parties concerned to explore the possibility of increasing the number of beneficiaries of this humanitarian programme and looks forward to the implementation of other confidence-building measures, particularly seminars on non-political topics involving civil society both in the Territory and in the Tindouf area.
He commends MINURSO's involvement in the provision of short-term humanitarian assistance to stranded migrants on the east side of the berm, noting that, while such activities lie beyond the Mission's mandate, it cannot ignore the urgent humanitarian needs of the migrants, particularly in the absence of any humanitarian actors who are able to provide emergency relief. Meanwhile, he welcomes MINURSO's efforts to engage with humanitarian partners with the competence and capability to provide more sustained support.
The report also outlines recent developments in Western Sahara, including the 6 November ceremony in Laayoune, marking the thirtieth anniversary of Morocco's "Green March" into the Territory. From 24 to 28 February, the Frente POLISARIO celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the "Saharan Arab Democratic Republic" in Tindouf and Tifariti. On 20 March, King Mohammed VI paid a five-day visit to Laayoune and announced the appointment of a new President and other high-level officials to the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs in an effort to revive the body, which comprises traditional leaders (sheikhs), civil society representatives and elected members.
According to the report, several demonstrations calling for self-determination and respect for human rights were organized in Laayoune and other main towns, leading to violent demonstrations between the participants and the Moroccan security forces, which, in turn, resulted in arrests and detentions. Tensions were particularly acute in late October following the death of a young Sahrawi demonstrator from injuries suffered during a protest in Laayoune on 29 October. Moroccan authorities subsequently ordered the detention of two police officers involved in the incident, pending the completion of a judicial inquiry into the circumstances of the demonstrator's death. Responding to the demonstrations, the Moroccan security and police presence increased in all main towns and army troops were deployed in December, for the first time since 1999.
The report states that, in letters addressed to the Secretary-General in November and December, Frente POLISARIO Secretary-General Mohamed Abdelaziz called for United Nations intervention to guarantee Sahrawi human rights, condemned the Moroccan police and military intervention in the demonstrations and warned that the deployment of the Moroccan military in the Territory constituted a dangerous development that could lead to additional incidents, including "deadly confrontations" between Morocco and Sahrawi civilians.
On 25 March, the King of Morocco granted pardons to 216 prisoners, including 30 Sahrawi activists, the report says. Pro-Sahrawi demonstrators were organized in Laayoune, Boujdour, Dakhla and Smara to welcome the release of the activists and demand the release of 37 more political prisoners. According to media reports, Moroccan security forces intervened to disperse the demonstrators, resulting in a number of arrests. On 28 March, Mr. Abdelaziz wrote again to the Secretary-General expressing concern about the human rights abuses perpetrated by Moroccan security forces, particularly in Smara, where several people were reportedly detained and some, including women, injured on 26 March.
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