Thursday, April 28, 2011

Western Sahara: Security Council extends UN mission in Western Sahara for another year

MINURSO Medical Unit at work

UN - The Security Council today extended for another year the mandate of the United Nations mission tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in Western Sahara and organizing a referendum on self-determination for the people of the territory.

The UN has been involved in efforts to find a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.

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.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council extended the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2012, as recommended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a recent report.

In doing so, the 15-member body called on the parties “to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations.”

It also welcomed the parties’ commitment to continue the process of holding small, informal talks in preparation for a fifth round of UN-backed negotiations, and called on them to continue negotiations “without preconditions and in good faith.”

When representatives of the parties wrapped up their latest round of talks last month, both sides continued to reject each other’s proposal as a sole basis for future negotiations.

At the same time, the two sides confirmed their willingness to explore innovative approaches for negotiation and topics for discussion to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution of the conflict.

Noting that neither party has taken steps to date that would suggest a readiness to move to an acceptable compromise, Mr. Ban recommended several initiatives in his report to help advance progress in the negotiations.

Among them is for the parties to find a way to include representatives of a wide cross-section of the population of Western Sahara in the discussion of issues related to final status and the exercise of self-determination.