Magazine article UN Chronicle

Mission Mandate Extended to January 1996: Possibility of Withdrawal Not Ruled Out

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Mission Mandate Extended to January 1996: Possibility of Withdrawal Not Ruled Out

Article excerpt

In extending the mandate of the five-year-old UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 January 1996, the Security Council noted the Secretary-General's intention to present alternative options, including the possibility of the Mission's withdrawal, if conditions necessary for the start of a transitional period for the referendum on self-determination were not in place before then.

In unanimously adopting resolution 1017 (1995) on 22 September, the Council asked the Secretary-General to report by 15 January on progress towards implementing the UN settlement plan for Western Sahara, stating whether or not the transitional period could begin by 31 May 1996.

The Council also called on the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) to work with the UN Secretary-General and MINURSO to implement the settlement plan, stop insisting on strict reciprocity in the operation of the identification centres, and cease all "procrastinating actions which could further delay the holding of the referendum".

The Secretary-General had reported that both sides were reluctant to compromise on any issue which they believed could weaken their own position. He appealed to the parties to make every effort to permit the expeditious implementation of the settlement plan.

The Council also asked for "specific and detailed proposals" to resolve problems hindering the completion of the identification process. After receiving a report from the Secretary-General, the Council would review arrangements for completing the identification process and consider further measures to ensure its prompt completion.

MINURSO - known by its French acronym - was established by Council resolution 658 (1990), which set out plans for a settlement of the Western Sahara question. It provided for UN-supervision of a cease-fire between Morocco and POLISARIO, and a referendum in which the people of the Territory would choose between independence and integration with Morocco.

On 8 September, the Secretary-General reported (S/1995/779) that progress in the last three months had been "disappointing". So far, a total of over 53,000 persons had been identified as being qualified to vote in the referendum, including 40 per cent of applicants residing in the Territory and about half of those in refugee camps. He estimated that, with the cooperation of both parties, the identification process in all four refugee camps and three of four centres in the Territory (with the exception of Laayoune) could be completed in approximately five weeks. …

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