Washington, DC, April 29, 2016 (MACP) — Today the Security Council voted to renew the mandate for MINURSO, the United Nations’ (UN) peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara. Moroccan Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale welcomed the resolution for reiterating the fundamental parameters of the negotiation, among them calling for “a fifth round of negotiations” based on “realism and a spirit of compromise” to reach “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to the conflict.”
MINURSO was established in 1991 to monitor a ceasefire between Morocco and the Algeria-backed separatist movement known as the Polisario Front. After more than a decade of failed attempts to organize a referendum on the status of Western Sahara, the UN decided in 2002 to abandon the idea and instead pursue a negotiated political solution to the conflict. In 2007, and with the encouragement of the United States, Morocco proposed such a compromise solution based on broad autonomy for the Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty.
This year’s UN Security Council resolution yet again “[took note] of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and the serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution.” The document specifically reaffirmed resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), and 2218 (2015), all of which call for a negotiated political solution and make no mention of a referendum. In 2008, concluding that “an independent Western Sahara is not an attainable goal,” then-UN negotiator Peter van Walsum had proposed that the fifth round of negotiations focus only on a negotiated political solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
The resolution also “[recognized] that achieving a political solution to this long-standing dispute and enhanced cooperation between the Member States of the Maghreb Arab Union would contribute to stability and security in the Sahel region.”
“Everyone agrees that this conflict has gone on for far too long, to the detriment of the stability, security, and prosperity of North Africa—a region of the world that is very vulnerable right now,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “The United States understands this, and that’s why it has endorsed Morocco’s 2007 proposal as the best option out there.”
At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing held earlier this week, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told members of Congress that the State Department had worked closely with Morocco on this year’s UN resolution, recognizing that Morocco “is one of our closest partners in the region and indeed around the world.” And US policy toward Western Sahara supporting autonomy of the region under Moroccan sovereignty “has remained consistent for many years,” according to numerous State Department statements. At the third US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue, held in Washington last year, Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that “Morocco’s autonomy plan is serious, realistic, and credible, and that it represents a potential approach that could satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.” Secretary Kerry and Morocco’s Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar also reaffirmed their “shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people in the Western Sahara and discussed appropriate ways to meet that goal.”
Today’s Security Council resolution noted Morocco’s efforts in this regard. “Encouraging the parties to continue in their respective efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps, including the freedoms of expression and association,” the Security Council resolution “welcomed… the recent steps and initiatives taken by Morocco, and the role played by the National Council on Human Rights Commissions operating in Dakhla and Laâyoune, and Morocco’s interaction with Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council.” The resolution also “[reiterated] its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and [invited] efforts in this regard.”
“Today’s resolution paves the way for the next step in this process: a fifth round of negotiations based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty,” added Ambassador Gabriel.
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
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