Secretary-General recommends 6-month extension of UN mission in Western Sahara

Secretary-General recommends 6-month extension of UN mission in Western Sahara

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today recommends a further six-month extension in the mandate of the United Nations mission in the Western Sahara until October, calling also for the Security Council to urge Morocco and the Frente Polisario to start negotiations in an effort to re-start the long-stalled peace process in the region.

In his latest report to the 15-member Council, which covers the last six months, Mr. Ban writes that although the overall situation between the two sides has remained “generally calm,” the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is still needed to monitor the ceasefire.

“I recommend that the Security Council call upon the parties, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, to enter into negotiations without preconditions, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.” Neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania, should also be invited to the negotiations, he recommends.

“I believe that the presence of MINURSO remains indispensable for the maintenance of the ceasefire in Western Sahara. Therefore, I recommend that the Security Council extend the mandate of MINURSO for a further period of six months, until 31 October 2007.”

Mr. Ban also calls for the lifting of restrictions of movement imposed on UN personnel, and for all sides to extend their full cooperation to the Mission and “ensure that basic peacekeeping principles are upheld.”

He further highlights the plight of Western Saharan refugees and calls for international assistance to help them, while also urging all parties to respect the human rights of the people of Western Sahara and continue to work with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

MINURSO was established in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario and organize a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony which Morocco has claimed as its own and where Frente Polisario has been fighting for independence.

But in April 2004 Morocco said it could not accept a referendum that included independence as an option. Efforts to resolve the impasse between the two sides have stalled in recent years, with no direct political negotiations taking place.