Security Council Extends Mandate of Western Sahara Mission, Calls on Parties to Work Towards Acceptance of Special Envoy's Peace Plan
Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1495 (2003), Council Members Say Parties Have "Enough Political Room" to Reach Solution
NEW YORK, 31 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council, stressing that a political solution was critically needed in the settlement of the dispute over Western Sahara, given the lack of progress, today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum there (MINURSO) until 31 October and called on the parties to work with the United Nations and with each other towards acceptance and implementation of the "Peace plan".
Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 1495 (2003), the Council expressed its continued strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, James A. Baker III, and similarly for their Peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as an "optimum political solution" on the basis of agreement between the two parties.
In that context, the Council called on the parties and the States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy.
Under a related provision of the resolution, the Council reaffirmed its call upon the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) to release, without further delay, all remaining prisoners of war, in compliance with international humanitarian law.
The Council also reaffirmed its call on Morocco and POLISARIO to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resolve the fate of persons unaccounted for since the beginning of the conflict.
The purpose of the Peace plan between Morocco and POLISARIO, and joined by Algeria, Mauritania and the United Nations, is to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Western Sahara that 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. The plan is annexed to the report of the Secretary, which is before the Council in document S/2003/565 and Corr.1.
Following adoption of the text, 14 of the 15 Council members expressed their gratification for the consensus that had been achieved during negotiations. They also expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, in helping the parties to reach a peaceful settlement. Speakers also indicated that the resolution had provided the parties with "enough political room" to reach a definitive solution on the basis of the "Baker plan". The text had not imposed a solution on the parties, which could have "tipped the dynamic process" of dialogue. Rather, it had prompted a resumption of sustained discussion, backed by the Council.
The United States representative, whose delegation had submitted the resolution, said that the text had responded to the Secretary-General's recommendations on the way ahead in Western Sahara. It represented a considered recommendation of the Council, but did not constitute an imposition on the parties and neighbouring States. Acceptance of the Peace plan was an optimum political solution, as the plan was a fair and balanced compromise, giving each party some, but not all, of what it wanted.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Guinea, France, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Cameroon, China, Chile, Mexico, Germany, Angola, Russian Federation, and Syria. The representative of Spain, whose delegation presided over the Council in July, also spoke in his national capacity.
The meeting began at 10:18 a.m. and adjourned at 10:46 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1495 (2003) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its resolutions on the question of Western Sahara, and reaffirming, in particular, resolution 1429 (2002) of 30 July 2002,
"Stressing that in view of lack of progress in the settlement of the dispute over Western Sahara a political solution is critically needed,
"Concerned that this lack of progress continues to cause suffering to the people of Western Sahara, remains a source of potential instability in the region and obstructs the economic development of the Maghreb region,
"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,
"Commending the parties for their continuing commitment to the ceasefire and welcoming the essential contribution which the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is making in that regard,
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 23 May 2003 (S/2003/565) and the Peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara presented by his Personal Envoy, as well as the responses of the parties and the neighbouring States,
"Acting under Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations,
"1. Continues to support strongly the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy and similarly supports their Peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties;
"2. Calls upon the parties to work with the United Nations and with each other towards acceptance and implementation of the Peace plan;
"3. Calls upon all the parties and the States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy;
"4. Reaffirms its call upon the Polisario Front to release without further delay all remaining prisoners of war in compliance with international humanitarian law, and its call upon Morocco and the Polisario Front 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;
"5. Reiterates its call upon the parties to collaborate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the implementation of confidence-building measures and continues to urge the international community to provide generous support to UNHCR and the World Food Programme in order to help them overcome the deteriorating food situation among the refugees;
"6. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 31 October 2003;
"7. Requests that the Secretary-General provide a report on the situation before the end of the present mandate that contains progress made in the implementation of the present resolution;
"8. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
When the Security Council met this morning on the question of Western Sahara, it had before it the latest report of the Secretary-General, dated 23 May (document S/2002/565 and Corr.1). In it, he recommends that the Council endorse "the Peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara", which had been developed by his Personal Envoy, James A. Baker III, pursuant to resolution 1429 (2002), and contained in annex II of the report.
The Council last met formally on the subject on 30 May, when it extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 July to allow time for consideration of the Secretary-General's report and the latest Peace plan for self-determination.
(For a detailed summary of the report, the Peace plan and action by the Council, see Press Release SC/7773.)
Statements Following Action on Text
BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) expressed satisfaction at the unanimous adoption of the resolution, reaffirming the shared concern of members to preserve Council unity. He said the compromise achieved opened the way to a new and dynamic process to allow the parties to engage in negotiations to achieve a just solution to the question of Western Sahara. It was also a sign of the necessary will to achieve a political solution. He reiterated his gratitude to the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, James Baker, for their tireless efforts.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said that the Council traditionally decided by consensus on the issue of Western Sahara. That had been a critically important and decisive element, which had provided full force and backing to the United Nations in helping the parties find a just and lasting solution to that dispute. Following sometimes arduous negotiations, his delegation welcomed the fact that consensus had been maintained for the adoption of the text today. That resolution showed that the Council was not diverting from its usual method in dealing with that issue and in making progress towards a lasting solution.
He added that the resolution did not impose a solution on the parties, which would have likely "tipped the dynamic process" of dialogue and the peace process. Rather, it prompted a resumption of sustained discussion, backed by the confidence of the Security Council. The Secretary-General had noted, in 2001, the deadlock regarding the Peace plan. There was a need then to seek out other ideas. In that context, he welcomed Mr. Baker's efforts to try to come up with imaginative options and to provide a new impetus to the search for a political solution.
RAYKO S. RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) welcomed the fact that a consensus had been possible and expressed confidence that now, both parties would work towards an acceptable solution.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said the issue under consideration hinged on the principle of self-determination and the proposed Peace plan could provide the basis for an early solution of the matter. His country had always supported a solution through negotiated settlement and had held that all resolutions of the Council, whether adopted under Chapter VI or Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, should be implemented. He appreciated efforts by Council members to achieve a consensus text and hoped the resolution would be a step forward in achieving a peaceful settlement.
MARTIN CHUNGONG AYAFOR (Cameroon) said he welcomed the adoption, by consensus, of the resolution. That text, which had been the result of efforts on the part of all Council members, had attested to the Council's determination to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution. Flexibility and a constructive spirit had enabled the Council to reach such positive results and to maintain its unity. He congratulated the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy for their tireless efforts and persistence in the pursuit of a solution for Western Sahara.
While reiterating his faith in a negotiated solution, which was acceptable to all parties, he assured the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy of Cameroon's support, and he urged the parties to engage in direct, frank and constructive dialogue, with a view to putting an end to the dispute between them. That was the only way that peace and cooperation could be achieved there.
JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) said the resolution responded to the Secretary-General's recommendations on the way ahead in Western Sahara. It represented a considered recommendation of the Council to the parties and neighbouring States, but that did not constitute an imposition. Acceptance of the Peace plan was an optimum political solution, as that plan was a fair and balanced compromise, giving each party some, but not all, of what it wanted.
He said that the parties and neighbouring States should seize the opportunities presented by the plan, and cooperate closely and actively with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, and with each other, to follow up that important resolution. He especially appreciated the efforts of James Baker in achieving that important step forward towards resolving that long-standing dispute.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that, all along, he had believed that the Council's authority came from its unity. He was pleased to note, therefore, that after consultations, and in the spirit of compromise, the Council had finally adopted the resolution. That had proved, once again, that with sufficient political will, consensus was always achievable. His country had all along been concerned with the question of Western Sahara, which it hoped could be solved in a fair and just manner, within the framework of the United Nations.
He also expressed his support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, and all other parties concerned, towards a resolution of that problem. Hopefully, that long overdue problem could be solved, as soon as possible, in the interest of peace and the development of the region.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said he hoped that the adoption of the resolution by consensus would lead to a definitive solution of the conflict. The resolution was clear-cut and pragmatic, and it left "enough political room" to make it possible to reach such a definitive solution on the basis of the "Baker plan" and agreement among the parties. He welcomed the important step taken today by the Council, and thanked the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy. Now, he hoped that the parties would endorse the plan, as, in the final analysis, the possibility for reaching a peaceful solution was in their own hands. That would then make it possible to realize the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara, he added.
ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said the Organization employed two main principles in reaching a solution to the conflict: the principle of self-determination and the principle of reaching a negotiated settlement. Today's resolution contained those two principles and constituted progress in which one could "glimpse elements of agreement".
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) joined other delegations in commending the Secretary-General and Mr. Baker for their work, and in welcoming Council consensus. The resolution constituted a fair basis for good-faith negotiations. He called on the parties and neighbouring States to use the opportunity to come closer to a fair and negotiated settlement.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that after so many years, there now existed a good basis on which the parties and the countries in the region could come together. He expressed satisfaction that the principle of self-determination had been upheld as a basic principle on which to negotiate. He commended the parties for their demonstrated political will.
GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the resolution opened the way for the peace process and did not impose a final solution on the parties. It was important that, at this time, the Council had demonstrated the capacity to come to a consensus decision on a very difficult matter.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said he was also pleased at the adoption of the text by consensus, as any disagreement among members hurt Syria. He had deployed every effort to reach agreement among Council members. He hoped that the consensus adoption of the resolution would result in a convergence between the parties, leading to a peaceful solution to that question. He also appreciated the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, and wished them success in their forthcoming endeavours.
Council President INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), speaking in his national capacity, said that the unanimous adoption of the text had been an important step towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable settlement, for both the parties and the region. Spain had always followed a policy of constructive neutrality and had refrained from imposing a solution upon the parties. The Council, under the current circumstances, could not have restricted itself to adopting merely a technical resolution, as the it had a serious and concrete proposal before it, as presented by Mr. Baker, and supported by the Secretary-General.
He said the Council should take up that dispute under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter, which concerns the peaceful settlement of disputes. The settlement must also be taken up by the parties themselves. He supported the Peace plan and called on the parties to cooperate with the United Nations, and among themselves, with a view to implementing it. He thanked all Council members for their understanding and efforts in the course of the negotiations. He particularly thanked the United States delegation for making substantive headway, with the necessary flexibility.
He emphasized the appeal addressed to the parties, and asked them not to discard that opportunity and to commence dialogue, leading to full acceptance of the Peace plan. He would promote that dialogue and do his utmost to ensure that a settlement would become a reality in the near future.
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