Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara

I. Introduction
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1634
(2005) of 28 October 2005, by which the Council extended the mandate of the
United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until
30 April 2006. The report covers developments since the issuance of my report
dated 13 October 2005 (S/2005/648).
II. Recent developments in Western Sahara
2. On 6 November 2005, a ceremony was held in Laayoune to mark the thirtieth
anniversary of Morocco’s “Green March” into Western Sahara. From 24 to
28 February 2006, the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de
Río de Oro (Frente Polisario) held celebrations to mark the thirtieth anniversary of
the “Saharan Arab Democratic Republic” in Tindouf, Algeria, and Tifariti, Western
Sahara, about 70 kilometres east of the berm. On 20 March 2006, King Mohammed
VI arrived in Laayoune for a five-day visit to Western Sahara. He 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.
3. During the period under review, several demonstrations calling for the selfdetermination
of the people of Western Sahara and respect for their human rights
were organized in Laayoune and other main towns in the Territory. The
demonstrations led to violent confrontations between the participants and the
Moroccan security forces, resulting in arrests and detentions. Tensions were
particularly acute in late October, following the death of a young Saharan
demonstrator as a result of injuries incurred during a protest held in Laayoune on
29 October 2005. Moroccan authorities subsequently ordered the arrest and
detention of two police officers involved in the incident, pending the completion of
a judicial inquiry into the circumstances of the demonstrator’s death. In response to
the demonstrations, the presence of Moroccan security and police forces increased
in all the main towns in Western Sahara, and in December, army troops were
deployed in the Territory, for the first time since 1999. In letters addressed to me on
17 November 2005, 14 and 20 December 2005 respectively, the Secretary General of the Frente Polisario, Mohamed Abdelaziz, called upon the United Nations to
intervene to protect the Saharan citizens and guarantee their human rights,
condemned the intervention of the Moroccan police and military in the
demonstrations and warned that the deployment of Moroccan military officers to
Western Sahara constituted a dangerous development that could lead to additional
incidents, including “deadly confrontations” between Moroccan and Saharan
civilians.
4. On 25 March 2006, the King of Morocco granted pardons to 216 prisoners,
including 30 Saharan activists. Pro-Saharan demonstrations were organized in
Laayoune, Boujdour, Dakhla and Smara to welcome the release of the Saharan
activists and demand the release of 37 more Saharan political prisoners. According
to various media reports, Moroccan security forces intervened to disperse the
demonstrators, leading to a number of arrests. On 28 March, Mr. Abdelaziz again
wrote to me, expressing concern about the human rights abuses perpetrated by the
Moroccan security forces in connection with the recent demonstrations, in particular
in Smara, where several persons had been reportedly detained and some, including
women, had been injured on 26 March. Subsequently, Mr. Abdelaziz travelled to
New York where he met with me at United Nations Headquarters on 3 April to
express concern about the current situation in the Territory.
III. Activities of my Personal Envoy
5. Following preliminary discussions in New York with the representatives of the
two parties, the Government of Morocco and the Frente Polisario, and the
representatives of the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, my Personal
Envoy, Peter van Walsum, undertook an exploratory mission to the region from
11 to 17 October. On arrival in Rabat on 11 October, Mr. van Walsum and his
delegation were joined by Francesco Bastagli, my Special Representative for
Western Sahara. In Casablanca, Morocco, Mr. van Walsum was received by King
Mohammed VI. In Rabat, he met with the Prime Minister, Driss Jettou, and the
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Mohamed Benaissa, the Minister of
the Interior, Moustafa Sahel, the Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and
Cooperation, Taieb Fassi Fihri, the Moroccan Coordinator with MINURSO, Hamid
Chabar, and other senior government officials. In the Tindouf area, where he arrived
on 14 October, my Personal Envoy met with Mr. Abdelaziz, as well as with the
Frente Polisario Coordinator with MINURSO, M’Hamed Khadad, other senior
Frente Polisario officials and sheikhs. In Algiers, where he arrived on 15 October,
my Personal Envoy was received by the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika,
and met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Bedjaoui, the Minister of
State for African Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, and other senior government
officials. In Nouakchott, on 17 October, Mr. van Walsum was received by the
President of the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, Head of State, Colonel
Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, and met with the Prime Minister, Sidi Mohamed Ould
Boubacar, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Ould Sid’Ahmed, and other
senior government officials.
6. Subsequent to his exploratory visit to the region, my Personal Envoy informed
me that the question was still at an impasse and that there continued to be a total
lack of agreement on how to enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their
right to self-determination. Morocco had reiterated that it would not accept a referendum that would include the option of independence. It strongly advocated
negotiations, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable
political solution but made it clear that these would have to be about the autonomy
status of Western Sahara. The position of the Frente Polisario, with the general
support of Algeria, was that the only way forward was to implement either the Peace
Plan for the Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara or the Settlement
Plan. Both had been approved or supported by the Security Council and both
provided for self-determination through a referendum, with independence as one of
the options. Any other course would not be acceptable to the Frente Polisario.
Mauritania had reiterated its strict neutrality.

7. During meetings in Rabat, Tindouf, Algiers and Nouakchott, all officials
confirmed to my Personal Envoy their commitment to cooperate with the United
Nations in order to reach a solution to the Western Sahara issue as soon as possible,
as a prerequisite for the stability and development of the region. On his return from
the region, my Personal Envoy held consultations with the authorities of Spain,
France and the United States of America in Madrid, Paris and Washington, D.C. on
18, 19 and 25 October, respectively.

8. In accordance with paragraph 4 of Security Council resolution 1634 (2005),
my Personal Envoy briefed the Security Council on 18 January 2006 on the progress
of his efforts. The elements of that briefing, and the reactions to it, as expressed
during the subsequent meetings my Personal Envoy had with the parties and
representatives of the neighbouring countries, are contained in section VII of the
present report.

9. During the month of February 2006, my Personal Envoy held a series of
consultations with the authorities of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland, Spain, France and the United States authorities in London,
Madrid, Paris and Washington, D.C., respectively, as well as with the Chairperson of
the Commission of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Alpha Oumar Konare, and
senior authorities of the European Union in Brussels. He perceived a consensus
within the international community on the need to reach a solution to the Western
Sahara issue as soon as possible in order to enable the people of Western Sahara to
exercise their right to self-determination.
IV. Activities on the ground

A. Military

10. As at 15 March, the military component of MINURSO stood at 223 personnel,
including administrative clerks and a medical unit, against the authorized strength of
231. The military component continued to actively monitor the ceasefire, which has
been in effect since 6 September 1991.

11. During the reporting period, MINURSO performed 3,729 ground patrols and
157 air patrols to visit and inspect units of the Royal Moroccan Army and the
military forces of the Frente Polisario, in accordance with military agreement No. 1
concluded between the Royal Moroccan Army and MINURSO on the one hand, and
the Frente Polisario military forces and MINURSO on the other. Night operations
were introduced in October (see S/2005/648, para. 20), in accordance with the new
concept of operations, which came into effect on 1 October. At the same time,
MINURSO has proposed to the parties the establishment of a joint military
verification commission, including representatives from both sides and MINURSO,
to allow for the exchange of information and transparency in the implementation of
the ceasefire. The revised focus of operations has resulted in a 25 per cent increase
in the number of ground patrols compared to the previous reporting period.

12. Violations by both parties have decreased since the previous reporting period
(S/2005/648, para. 8). Furthermore, the Frente Polisario lifted the restrictions on the
movement of United Nations military observers, which had been in place for several
years, allowing access to its military units for inspection purposes. From 14 October
to 15 March, MINURSO observed eight new violations by the Royal Moroccan
Army and four new violations by the military forces of the Frente Polisario,
reflecting a decrease of almost 50 per cent in the overall number of violations
compared to the previous reporting period. The violations included continued
incursions into the buffer strip by armed elements from both sides, construction of
new physical structures and movement of weapons and military units without prior
notification or approval by MINURSO. MINURSO reported that the concentration
of military forces of the Frente Polisario during the military parade held in Tifariti
on 27 February included about 2,600 troops, 150 camels and 40 armoured personnel
carriers, and hence constituted a violation of military agreement No. 1.

13. However, MINURSO continued to observe long-standing violations by both
parties. These included the presence of radar equipment and improvement of the
defence infrastructure, including expansions of the berm, by the Royal Moroccan
Army, and the continued deployment of military personnel and infrastructure
improvements by the Frente Polisario in the area known as the “Spanish Fort”, as
described in my report to the Security Council (S/2005/49, para. 6). Close liaison
with the parties led to defused tensions on the eve of the Frente Polisario
celebrations of the thirtieth anniversary of the “Saharawi Arab Democratic
Republic” and planned civilian demonstrations at the berm were not held.

14. With regard to military agreements No. 2 and No. 3, the parties continued to
extend cooperation to MINURSO in the marking and disposal of mines and
unexploded ordnance. During the period under review, MINURSO discovered and
marked 29 mines and pieces of unexploded ordnance and monitored the destruction
of 3,381 such devices. In cooperation with the United Nations Mine Action Service,
the parties and non-governmental organizations, the Mission also organized
activities to clear mines and unexploded ordnance and to raise awareness of the
issue among the population in the Territory, where weather conditions often cause
mines and tracks to shift, making previously safe areas dangerous. On 3 November,
the Frente Polisario signed the Geneva Call’s “Deed of commitment” for non-State
actors, banning the use of anti-personnel mines and committing to the destruction of
current stockpiles. On 27 February, the Frente Polisario proceeded to destroy 3,100
anti-personnel mines and an anti-tank mine near Tifariti; MINURSO monitored the
operation.

B. Prisoners of war, other detainees and persons unaccounted for

15. The International Committee of the Red Cross continues to work with the
parties in accounting for those who are still missing in relation to the conflict.

C. Assistance to Western Saharan refugees
16. Following a joint decision by the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to
reduce the number of assisted beneficiaries from 158,000 to 90,000 (see
S/2005/648, para. 11), representatives of UNHCR and WFP met with senior officials
of the Government of Algeria and the Frente Polisario from 14 to 19 February to
review the issue of the number of refugees requiring assistance. Discussions on
these issues are ongoing. On 18 and 19 March, UNHCR and WFP jointly led a
donor mission to the Tindouf area to enable donors to become acquainted with relief
activities in the refugee camps. The Mission contributed to raising donor awareness
of the precarious humanitarian situation in the Tindouf area refugee camps, where
supplies of wheat flour and sugar are expected to be exhausted by the end of April.

17. From 9 to 11 February, four refugee settlements in the Tindouf area were
affected by heavy rainfall and flash floods, which caused severe damage to the
already fragile infrastructure of the camps. Between 50,000 and 60,000 refugees
were left homeless after their shelters, made of mud bricks, failed to withstand the
flooding. Schools and dispensaries were also severely damaged. The Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, WFP and the Algerian Red
Crescent immediately put into place an emergency response mechanism to address
the crisis, while Algeria dispatched a humanitarian convoy to bring relief to the
Saharan refugees. In the early stages of the emergency response, MINURSO
assisted through the provision of water tanks, as well as in the distribution and
overall coordination of assistance. I commend the rapid and effective response of
the Government of Algeria and the refugee community itself in dealing with the
short-term effects of the crisis. I am also grateful for the generous support provided
by various donor countries to fund the delivery of emergency assistance to the
affected population. However, while access to basic services has now been restored,
assessment of the damage caused and rehabilitation required is still ongoing. It is
currently estimated that in addition to a critical shortage of adequate shelter, the
food situation in the camps has been adversely affected. I therefore call upon donors
to continue to contribute generously to assistance programmes targeting Saharan
refugees affected by the recent crisis.
D. Confidence-building measures
18. I am pleased to report that on 25 November, after an eleven-month hiatus,
UNHCR and MINURSO were able to resume the programme of exchange of family
visits between the Territory and the refugee camps in the Tindouf area. In
accordance with the plan of action, MINURSO provides assistance and logistical
support to UNHCR, which retains overall responsibility for the implementation of
the programme and the protection of beneficiaries. As at 15 March, some 610
persons had taken the weekly United Nations flights to and from the Territory and
the Tindouf area refugee camps, bringing the total number of beneficiaries since the
start of the programme to 2,086. Over 17,000 candidates (about 6,000 in the
Territory and some 11,000 in the camps) are currently on the waiting list to
participate in the programme, while Saharans on both sides of the berm have
requested that the lists be reopened to enable additional candidates to register,
reflecting their high level of interest in the programme. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and my Special Representative for
Western Sahara are exploring with the parties the possibility of expanding the
programme to increase the number of beneficiaries. However, any expansion of the
programme to increase the number of family visits or register additional candidates
would require more than the estimated $3.6 million requested for the 2006
programme. I urge donors to contribute generously to this important humanitarian
initiative, which is highly valued by its beneficiaries and fosters solidarity and
mutual understanding among Saharans.

19. It will be recalled that the Mission’s support for the exchange of family visits
programme included the deployment of civilian police officers who escort the
participants in the programme on United Nations flights across the berm and
monitor and facilitate the airport procedures at the arrival and departure points.
20. The telephone service between the Tindouf area camps and the Territory
continued to operate successfully during the reporting period. Since its
establishment, over 43,700 calls have been made from the camps, enabling refugees
to communicate with their relatives in the Territory. As previously reported,
UNHCR remains ready to implement the postal service, in accordance with the
modalities initially proposed or under any terms that would meet with the approval
of all concerned.

E. Illegal migrants

21. During the reporting period, MINURSO was again called upon to assist in
responding to the humanitarian plight of migrants stranded in the Western Saharan
desert. From 12 to 16 October 2005, following reports from UNHCR and several
non-governmental organizations operating in the Territory that a number of sub-
Saharan migrants had been stranded in the desert, MINURSO organized ground and
air patrols to help locate them. As of 17 October, a total of 115 migrants had been
found; all were in poor physical condition owing to lack of food and water for
several days and some were injured. The migrants alleged that they had been
stranded in the desert after having been forced across the berm into the buffer strip.
Acting on a purely humanitarian basis, MINURSO assisted them through the
provision of water, food and emergency medical aid before transferring them to the
care of the Frente Polisario. By the end of November, 154 illegal migrants,
primarily from sub-Saharan Africa, had arrived at Bir Lahlou, Mehaires and
Agwanit, where they were provided with shelter under the care of the Frente
Polisario. In December, 93 of the migrants voluntarily left Frente Polisario premises
by their own means, leaving a total of 61 migrants in the Territory. On 23 February,
MINURSO facilitated the transfer of 26 of them from Bir Lahlou through Mijek to
Zouerate, Mauritania, where they were received by UNHCR, following the
Government of Mauritania’s agreement to grant them temporary asylum, pending a
solution to their situation. As at 12 April, 35 migrants, mainly from Cameroon and
Ghana, continued to be provided with shelter in Bir Lahlou under the care of the
Frente Polisario.

22. On 31 December 2005, a group of 17 West African migrants arrived at the
MINURSO team site at Agwanit, seeking the Mission’s assistance. MINURSO
facilitated their transport to the Mauritanian border, from where they were
repatriated. The group of 46 illegal migrants from Bangladesh, referred to in my previous report (S/2005/648, para. 17), increased to 48 during the reporting period,
with the arrival of two additional migrants of the same nationality. On 14 January,
the group, which had been under the care of the Frente Polisario in the Tifariti area,
were transported, with MINURSO’s logistical assistance, to the border with
Mauritania, where they were handed over to the International Organization for
Migration (IOM) for voluntary repatriation.

23. While MINURSO continued to provide emergency assistance to stranded
migrants and to contribute to repatriation operations, its capacity to assist stranded
migrants remained limited. The increased presence of stranded migrants in the
Territory placed heavier demands on the available resources of MINURSO, and
increasingly impacted on the discharge of its core mandate. Since MINURSO is not
able to assume ongoing responsibility to respond to the immediate requirements of
stranded migrants, it has pursued contacts with humanitarian partners, which have
the necessary mandate, expertise and resources, in an effort to develop a coordinated
inter-agency response to the problem. Important progress was made in that regard at
various meetings held in Geneva, with UNHCR, IOM and the United Nations Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at the initiative of MINURSO on
23 and 24 February.
F. Restructuring of the Mission
24. Further to the recommendations developed following the review of the
Mission’s civilian and military components (see S/2005/648, paras. 19-21),
significant progress was achieved during the reporting period towards the
restructuring of MINURSO. The establishment of a joint operations centre and a
joint mission analysis cell have enhanced integration of the Mission’s civilian and
military activities, as well as improved data collection and information management.
The joint operations centre has contributed to improved operational management to
ensure full compliance with the Mission’s military objectives. Through its
subsidiary units — the information collection cell and the information analysis
cell — the joint mission analysis cell manages the collection, storage and analysis of
data on issues of relevance to the implementation of the mandate of MINURSO. The
joint mission analysis cell has thus gradually developed into an effective instrument
for the strategic management and decision-making of MINURSO. From 20 to
22 December, a MINURSO delegation travelled to Abidjan to share experiences and
lessons learned from the joint mission analysis cell with staff of the United Nations
Operation in Côte d’Ivoire.

25. As referred to in my previous report (S/2005/648, para. 20), measures were
implemented to strengthen, from within existing resources, the capacity of the
Mission’s military component to monitor the ceasefire and the military agreements.
In this context, the closure of the two sector headquarters on 31 October and the
subsequent redeployment of their military personnel to nine observer team sites
have enabled MINURSO to expand its ceasefire monitoring activities through a
strengthened presence on the ground. Meanwhile, the introduction of night
operations in October has allowed for more comprehensive monitoring of the
parties’ military activities, which is proving an effective deterrent to violations of
military agreement No. 1. In addition, a hierarchical contact system between
MINURSO and the parties’ command structures was introduced to facilitate
relations with the parties at all levels, in particular when tensions might develop.
26. In order to bring MINURSO in line with current peacekeeping practices, a
geographic information system (GIS) cell was established. When the necessary
equipment is purchased from within the Mission’s current budget, MINURSO will
have the capacity to produce its own topographical maps, which will replace the
outdated aerial maps that are presently relied upon for operational and planning
purposes. The initiative will also support the Mission’s ongoing efforts to reduce the
danger of mines and unexploded ordnance since a GIS system and accurate maps are
essential to ensuring the safety of military observers in the parts of the Territory that
are infested with mines and unexploded ordnance, as well as serve as a valuable
management tool for the realization of other objectives of the Mission.
27. In accordance with current practice, the security adviser now reports directly
to my Special Representative, while the functions of air operations and air safety
have been separated to ensure compliance with air safety standards. In December, a
team from the Department of Safety and Security conducted a security management
review of MINURSO, which resulted in a number of recommendations to improve
the physical security of the Mission and its security management systems. In line
with those recommendations, measures have been implemented to improve the
safety and security of MINURSO staff and premises, such as the introduction of an
integrated warden system to facilitate expeditious evacuation, as needed. In order to
ensure compliance with minimum operating security standards, resources have been
allocated for infrastructure improvements to the Mission’s headquarters and team
sites, including the installation of bomb blast film on all windows, security lighting,
boom gates and the construction of security fencing. The Mission is also
contemplating the construction of wells in selected team sites, in particular on the
east side of the berm, in an effort to improve staff comfort and security. Some
security improvements require prior approval from local authorities.
28. Within the framework of the restructuring of the civilian and administrative
components, selected support and maintenance functions are being outsourced,
which, together with the staff reductions indicated in my previous report
(S/2005/648, para. 21) and other cost-cutting measures, will bring about overall
savings for the Mission. In the area of training, a Mission-wide integrated induction
programme was launched in February to give all military, civilian and locally
recruited personnel a comprehensive introduction to MINURSO and the United
Nations. The programme is complemented by specific induction briefings tailored to
the function of each recruit.

V. African Union
29. During the reporting period, the observer delegation of the African Union to
MINURSO, led by its Senior Representative, Yilma Tadesse (Ethiopia), continued to
provide support and cooperation to the Mission. I wish to reiterate my appreciation
to the African Union for its contribution.
VI. Financial aspects
30. The General Assembly, by its resolution 59/308, appropriated the amount of
$47,948,400, equivalent to $3,995,700 per month, for the Special Account for
MINURSO for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. Should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of MINURSO beyond 30 April 2006, the cost
of maintaining the Mission until 30 June 2006 would be limited to the amounts
approved by the Assembly. As at 31 December 2005, unpaid assessed contributions
to the Special Account for MINURSO amounted to $62.8 million. As a consequence
of this, the Organization has not been in a position to reimburse the troopcontributing
Governments for any costs incurred since April 2002. The total
outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations as at
31 December 2005 amounted to $2,918.8 million.
VII. Observations and recommendations
31. In his briefing of 18 January 2006 to the Security Council, my Personal Envoy
pointed out that after April 2004, when Morocco had rejected the Peace Plan
because it could not accept a referendum that included independence as an option,
the Plan had never been mentioned again in a Security Council resolution. Nor had
any country with close ties to Morocco apparently used its influence to try to
persuade Morocco to reconsider its position. My Personal Envoy concluded from
this that the Security Council was firm in its opinion that it could only contemplate
a consensual solution to the question of Western Sahara. In this context, he did not
see how he could draft a new plan that would replace the Peace Plan. A new plan
would be doomed from the outset to be rejected by Morocco unless it excluded the
provision for a referendum with independence as an option. He could not envisage
such a plan. The United Nations could not endorse a plan that excluded a genuine
referendum while claiming to provide for the self-determination of the people of
Western Sahara.

32. My Personal Envoy considered, however, that what was unthinkable in a plan
endorsed or approved by the Security Council might not be beyond the reach of
direct negotiations. Once the Security Council recognized the political reality that
no one was going to force Morocco to give up its claim of sovereignty over Western
Sahara, it would realize that there were only two options left: indefinite
prolongation of the current deadlock in anticipation of a different political reality; or
direct negotiations between the parties.

33. The first option was dismissed by my Personal Envoy, who called a
continuation of the current impasse a recipe for violence. Violence would not lead to
an independent Western Sahara but would more likely condemn another generation
of Western Saharans to growing up in the camps of Tindouf.

34. What remained therefore was a recourse to direct negotiations, which should
be held without preconditions. Their objective should be to accomplish what no
“plan” could, namely to work out a compromise between international legality and
political reality that would produce a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political
solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western
Sahara.

35. After years of reliance on United Nations-sponsored plans, it should be made
clear to the parties that the United Nations was taking a step back and that the
responsibility now rested with them. This did not mean that the parties would
henceforth be on their own. My Personal Envoy believed that there was a consensus
in the Council that any solution to the problem of Western Sahara had to be found in
the framework, or under the auspices, of the United Nations.
36. My Personal Envoy urged the Council to invite Algeria to participate in the
negotiations. He also called on those members of the Council who had been
supporting the position of Morocco, to do all in their power to make the negotiations
succeed.

37. In the bilateral consultations my Personal Envoy held after his briefing, the
Frente Polisario reiterated that it would under no circumstances negotiate about any
kind of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. My Personal Envoy clarified that in
his briefing he had spoken of negotiations without preconditions, with a view to
achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would
provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. The Security
Council would not be able to invite parties to negotiate about Western Saharan
autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, for such wording would imply recognition
of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was out of the question as
long as no States Member of the United Nations had recognized that sovereignty.
Negotiating without preconditions meant, as my Personal Envoy had pointed out in
his briefing, that there would not be a precondition that the Frente Polisario first
recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara and then discuss the
autonomy to be “granted” by Morocco.

38. My Personal Envoy recalled, as he had done in his briefing, the advisory
opinion of the International Court of Justice of 16 October 1975, which concluded
that there were no valid reasons as to why the rules for decolonization and selfdetermination,
as contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), should not
apply to Western Sahara. In this context, he observed that the advisory opinion had
been handed down more than 30 years ago and that the resolution had still not been
implemented. In reference to that inordinate lapse of time, my Personal Envoy
observed that a solution for the question of Western Sahara could only be achieved
if the parties worked to seek a mutually acceptable compromise based upon relevant
principles of international law and current political realities. In the view of my
Personal Envoy, the parties could work out such a compromise if they engaged in a
constructive dialogue with each other on that basis.

39. The main obstacle, however, may not exist only in the positions adopted by the
parties. Since his briefing of 18 January 2006, my Personal Envoy has become even
more conscious of the forces outside the region that militate against the option for
negotiations. It goes without saying that no country will state, or admit, that it
favours a continuation of the impasse. But 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 both Morocco and Algeria.
These two factors combined constitute a powerful temptation to acquiesce to the
continuation of the 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.

40. I concur with the view of my Personal Envoy that the Security Council cannot
afford to adopt such an attitude. It cannot wait for the question of Western Sahara to
deteriorate from being a source of potential instability in the region to becoming a
threat to international peace and security. Instead, both the Council and 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 those 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 the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
41. It is my view that 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. I am concerned, in
particular, about reports of heavy-handed responses to the recent demonstrations in
the Territory, including the arrest and detention of several individuals. International
and local observers, as well as defence counsel were allowed to attend trials;
however, concerns regarding respect for fair trial standards were raised. In this
respect, I would like to reiterate that although MINURSO does not have the mandate
or resources to address this issue, the United Nations remains committed to
upholding international human rights standards. It is in this context that the Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights proposed last year to the parties to
deploy a mission to Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, as well as to Algeria, as
the country of asylum. The mission would gather information on the human rights
situation concerning the question of Western Sahara and propose measures through
which the United Nations might be able to better assist in addressing human rights
concerns. All concerned have now accepted the proposal, and following further
consultations on the dates, Morocco has indicated that it would be prepared to
receive the mission around 15 May 2006.

42. I welcome the reduction in the number of violations by the parties to military
agreement No. 1. However, while the introduction of the new concept of operations
has considerably enhanced the Mission’s capability to monitor compliance with the
agreement, with a consequent impact on the overall number of violations by the
parties, it remains the responsibility of the parties to ensure that violations are not
committed by their military/security forces. In this regard, I would encourage the
parties to cooperate with MINURSO on a review of existing military agreements in
order to better respond to evolving realities on the ground and clarify any issues that
may be subject to different interpretations. As previously noted (S/2005/648,
para. 25), any amendments to the agreements would have to be consistent with the
principle that military and security forces should maintain the status quo during the
ceasefire and should extend full freedom of movement to MINURSO military
observers, in accordance with basic peacekeeping principles. The latter should
include the freedom to inspect the military units, headquarters and installations of
the parties in the Territory.

43. I remain concerned by the potential dangers for civilian demonstrators coming
close to or within the buffer strip and restricted areas around the berm. Sufficient
advance notification of such 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 to verify allegations of violations of military
agreement No. 1 by either side. Meanwhile, I commend the initiative of Frente
Polisario to destroy a large portion of its stockpile of anti-personnel mines and call
on both parties to undertake similar efforts, with the assistance of MINURSO.

44. The human dimension of the conflict, including the plight of the Western
Saharan refugees, is a growing concern. In this context, I welcome the resumption
of the exchange of family visits between the Territory and the refugee camps in the
Tindouf area. Building on the success of these visits, I would encourage all parties concerned to explore the possibility of increasing the number of beneficiaries of this
humanitarian programme. I also look forward to the implementation of other
confidence-building measures, in particular the organization of seminars on nonpolitical
topics involving members of civil society in both the Territory and the
refugee camps in the Tindouf area. Further, I would like to commend the Mission’s
involvement in the provision of short-term humanitarian assistance to stranded
migrants on the east side of the berm. While such activities lie beyond the mandate
of MINURSO, the Mission cannot ignore the urgent humanitarian needs of the
migrants, in particular in the absence of any humanitarian actors who are able to
provide emergency relief. Meanwhile, I welcome the Mission’s efforts to engage
with humanitarian partners who have the competence and capability to provide more
sustained support. I believe that the understanding reached in Geneva between
MINURSO, UNHCR and IOM will not only facilitate a coordinated response to this
problem but may also set a positive precedent for inter-agency cooperation in
addressing the challenges posed by migration flows elsewhere in the world.

45. In view of the prevailing situation on the ground and my Personal Envoy’s
ongoing efforts, I believe that MINURSO continues to play a key stabilizing and
ceasefire monitoring role. I would therefore like to recommend that the mandate of
MINURSO be extended for a further period of six months, until 31 October 2006. I
sincerely hope that during this time the parties will reflect on the prolonged period
that has elapsed since the start of this conflict and on the need for both to take
actions that may lead to a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.

46. In conclusion, I would like to express appreciation to my Personal Envoy,
Peter van Walsum, for his efforts in search of a solution to the question of Western
Sahara, as well as to my Special Representative, Francesco Bastagli, and the men
and women of MINURSO, who continue to work tirelessly under difficult
conditions in the discharge of the Mission’s mandate.

Source: United Nations

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