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Security Council extends UN mission in West Sahara

Backing envoy’s plan, Security Council extends UN mission in Western Sahara

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  • Stressing the critical need for a political solution to settle the dispute over Western Sahara, the Security Council today extended by three months the mandate of the United Nations mission there, and called on all the parties to work with the UN, and each other, towards acceptance and implementation of a new peace plan.

    With the unanimous adoption a of new resolution, which extends the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) through 31 October, the Council expressed its continued strong support for the efforts of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Personal Envoy, James Baker III, and similarly for their peace plan for self-determination of the people of the territory as an “optimum political solution” on the basis of agreement between the two parties.

    Later Thursday, a spokesman for the Secretary-General said Mr. Annan “is gratified that the Security Council has adopted a resolution expressing its clear and strong support” for his efforts and those of Mr. Baker, and for the peace plan.

    “Given the unanimous nature of this resolution, he invites the parties to act constructively and to work with each other and with him and his Personal Envoy towards acceptance and implementation of the peace plan,” the statement said.

    In a report to the Council in late May, Mr. Annan recommended that the 15-nation body endorse the proposed peace plan – which combines elements of the draft framework agreement and agreed elements of the settlement plan. The report was issued on the heels of Mr. Baker’s tour of Western Sahara, during which he presented the plan to representatives of all the parties, including Morocco, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), Algeria and Mauritania.

    Representing something of a compromise, “[the plan] provides each side some, but not all, of what it wants,” Mr. Annan wrote in the report. It envisages a period of transition during which there would be a division of responsibilities between the parties before the holding of a referendum for self-determination within four to five years. And unlike the settlement plan, the new peace plan does not require the consent of both parties at each and every step of its implementation.

    Concerned that a lack of progress in settlement of the dispute remained a source of potential instability in Western Sahara and obstructed the economic development of the Maghreb region, the Council today called on all 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 on the POLISARIO Front to immediately release all remaining prisoners of war in compliance with international humanitarian law.

    The Council also reaffirmed its call on Morocco and the POLISARIO Front to continue to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resolve the fate of the persons who are unaccounted for since the beginning of the conflict.

    It reiterated its call on the parties to work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the implementation of confidence-building measures and continued to urge the international community to provide generous support to UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP), in order to help them overcome the deteriorating food situation among the refugees.

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