Ban Ki-moon recommends extension of mandate of UN mission in Western Sahara
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April next year, saying it is indispensable for the maintenance of the ceasefire in the dispute.
In his report to the Security Council on the situation in Western Sahara, Mr. Ban also recommends that the Council reiterate its call that both parties to the dispute, Morocco and Frente Polisario, negotiate in good faith and without any preconditions, under the auspices of Secretary-General’s personal envoy Christopher Ross.
Mr. Ban welcomes both parties’ commitment to the process of negotiations and their willingness to engage in the preparatory informal format. He notes, however, that two informal meetings held in August 2009 and February this year produced no movement on the core substantive issues, and more work is needed before a fifth round can be held.
Mr. Ban says that his special envoy’s efforts to promote a settlement have been “laborious”. “Their pace and substance have been heavily affected by the parties’ reaction to events in the region and their unyielding attachment to mutually exclusive positions,” the Secretary-General says.
“Nonetheless, he [the special envoy] continues to make intensive efforts to promote a mutually acceptable political solution that 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. Such a solution is a prerequisite for the return of the refugees to their homes and the reinforcement of stability, development and integration in the region,” the Secretary-General adds.
Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.
MINURSO is tasked with monitoring the ceasefire reached in September 1991 and organizing a referendum on self-determination.
In his report Mr. Ban remains concerned about the continuing violations of a military agreement by the parties and notes that it is their responsibility to ensure that violations are not committed by their military forces.
The Secretary-General expresses concern over the plight of the Western Saharan refugees and urges both parties to confirm their agreement to the expansion of the family visit programme and to accelerate their consultations with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on its implementation.
On human rights, Mr. Ban says that each side continues to accuse the other of violations and urges both parties to remain engaged in continuous and constructive dialogue with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Mr. Ban says he is pleased about the decrease in the number of accidents due to landmines and explosive remnants of war in the region, but notes that the higher number of victims highlights the urgent need to increase coordination and operations.
He says that mine action activities by MINURSO, the Royal Moroccan Army and Landmine Action have proved invaluable and contribute directly and positively to the safety of the civilian population in the region, as well as of UN personnel.
Source: UN News Centre