Chronology of Events

revised on 5 November 2018

Western Sahara

October 2018

On 11 October, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO Colin Stewart briefed Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest report. During the meeting, members expressed support for the UN-led efforts to renew a political process and the planned roundtable to be held in December in Geneva with the parties and neighbouring countries. A Council meeting with troop-contributing countries to MINURSO had been held two days earlier, on 9 October. On 31 October, the Security Council adopted resolution 2440 that extended the mandate of MINURSO for a further six months. Bolivia, Ethiopia and Russia abstained during its adoption (S/PV.8387)

August 2018

On 8 August, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Horst Köhler, briefed Council members in consultations. Köhler updated members on his 23 June to 1 July visit to the region to push for the resumption of negotiations, and on his vision for how to move forward the political process.

April 2018

On 17 April, Council members met in consultations to be briefed by Special Representative for the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO Colin Stewart on the situation in Western Sahara. During consultations, members considered the Secretary-General’s latest report on Western Sahara. On 27 April, the Council adopted resolution 2414 renewing the mandate of MINURSO for six months.

November 2017

On 22 November, Council members received a briefing in consultations on the situation in Western Sahara. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc delivered her last briefing in this capacity, and was succeeded the following day by Colin Stewart. Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General Horst Kohler delivered his first briefing to the Council on the political process. The meeting was initially to be held in October under the presidency of France, however, it was postponed to allow Kohler, who was in the region at that time, to brief.

April 2017

On 19 April, the Council held a meeting with troop- and police-contributing countries to MINURSO. On 25 April, Special Representative and head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc and Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun briefed Council members in consultations on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Western Sahara. On 21 April, the Group of Friends of Western Sahara met to negotiate the resolution renewing MINURSO’s mandate, which was circulated to all Council members on 24 April. At press time, on 28 April, the Council was set to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of MINURSO for one year.

February 2017

On 21 February, at the request of Uruguay, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members under “any other business” on the functionality of MINURSO.

January 2017

On 27 January, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous briefed Council members during consultations under “any other business” on MINURSO’s return to full functionality and the situation in Al-Guergarat, at Uruguay’s request.

December 2016

On 13 December, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members under “any other business” at the request of Uruguay and Venezuela. Ladsous updated Council members on the situation on the ground in Al Guergarat and on MINURSO’s return to full functionality.

November 2016

On 3 November, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members under “any other business” on his trip to the Layoune and Sahrawi refugee camps in southwestern Algeria.

October 2016

On 18 October, Special Representative and head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc and Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General Christopher Ross briefed Council members in consultations. The meeting focused particularly on the situation in Al Guergarat, in the southern part of the territory within the buffer strip controlled by Frente Polisario, where Morocco is attempting to build a road connecting its position at the berm with the Mauritanian border.

August 2016

On 26 August, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El-Ghassim Wane briefed Council members in consultations on the situation in Western Sahara. The briefing was requested by Venezuela in light of allegations by the Polisario that Morocco had traversed the berm in Al Guargarat, just north of the Mauritanian border, in violation of the ceasefire signed between both parties in 1991.

April 2016

Council members held two meetings on Western Sahara under “any other business” on 7 and 13 April, at the request of Uruguay and Venezuela. Peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous briefed at both meetings on the situation concerning MINURSO following the withdrawal of dozens of mission staff as demanded by Morocco. On 26 April, Angola convened an Arria-formula meeting on Western Sahara to allow Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the AU Commission Joaquim Chissano to brief Council members on the efforts he is undertaking in the discharge of his mandate. Also on 26 April, a meeting of MINURSO troop-contributing countries was held ahead of 27 April consultations when Council members were briefed by Special Envoy Christopher Ross and Special Representative Kim Bolduc who presented the latest MINURSO report. On 29 April, the Council adopted resolution 2285 renewing the MINURSO mandate.

March 2016

Council members met several times following a visit by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the region and the dispute with Morocco that ensued in Morocco’s request to have 84 members of MINURSO’s civilian staff withdrawn. On 17 March, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed members in consultations. On 18 March, Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, briefed Council members under “any other business” on the implications of a staff pullout. On 20 March it was reported that 73 staff members had left the mission. Council members then met at Permanent Representative level on 21 March. On 23 March, Herve Ladsous, head of DPKO, briefed Council members under “any other business”. The following day members met twice on the issue, afterwards issuing press elements that stressed the importance of addressing in a constructive, comprehensive and cooperative manner the circumstances that led to the situation “so that MINURSO may resume its full capacity to carry out its mandate as contained in several resolutions”.

February 2016

On 10 February, at the request of Venezuela, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed Council members under “any other business” on the proposed visit of the Secretary-General to the region.

December 2015

On 8 December, Council members met in consultations on Western Sahara. The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy ,Christopher Ross, briefed, stating that the negotiation process meant to facilitate a solution to the conflict over Western Sahara remains stalemated, with a solution needed more urgent than ever. He said that while the Polisario is ready to resume face-to-face talks, Morocco remains unready to do so without significant preparation through shuttle diplomacy. Ross concluded that much more can be done by means of a sustained effort by the Council, including a reiteration of his freedom of movement. Special Representative and head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc also briefed.

April 2015

On 16 April, the Council met with MINURSO troop-contributing countries. On 22 April, Council members were briefed in consultations by Special Representative Kim Bolduc on the most recent MINURSO report and by Special Envoy Christopher Ross. On 28 April, the Council adopted resolution 2218, extending the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2016.

October 2014

Council members met in consultations on the situation in Western Sahara on 27 October. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous briefed on the current situation concerning the new Special Representative and head of MINURSO, Kim Bolduc (Canada), who was to assume her position on 1 August, but has not yet travelled to her post due to opposition from Morocco. Bolduc still briefed Council members in consultations on the situation in the territory along with Christopher Ross, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

April 2014

On 16 April, the Council held a closed meeting with the troop- and police-contributing countries to MINURSO. On 17 April, the head of MINURSO, Special Representative Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber briefed Council members in consultations along with Personal Envoy Christopher Ross on MINURSO’s activities and developments in the Secretary-General’s latest report. On 29 April, the Council adopted resolution 2152 and extended the mandate of MINURSO for a year (S/PV.7162). The resolution supports the Secretary-General’s request for an additional 15 military observers, within existing resources. It also encourages the parties to continue their efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, including the freedoms of expression and association, and welcomes the initiatives taken by Morocco, including the planned visit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2014.

October 2013

Council members were briefed on 30 October in consultations by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, as well as the Special Representative and head of MINURSO, Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber. During the briefing, Ross shared the findings that emerged from his recent visit to North Africa.

April 2013

On 11 April, the Council held a closed meeting with the troop and police-contributing countries to MINURSO. On 22 April, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO, Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber (Germany), and the Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross (US), briefed Council members in consultations on MINURSO’s activities and recent developments since the Secretary-General’s latest report. In his briefing Ross covered his visits to North Africa from 18 March to 3 April and from 8 to 11 April. On 25 April, Council members adopted resolution 2099 and extended the mandate of MINURSO for another year. A draft resolution prepared by the US, the penholder on Western Sahara, had been discussed earlier by the Group of Friends of Western Sahara (France, Russia, Spain, the US and the UK) and between the US and Morocco in bilateral consultations. The initial draft apparently included language giving MINURSO a mandate to monitor and gather information on human rights violations and included a reference to human rights monitoring in the camps near Tindouf, Algeria, but by the time the draft was distributed to all Council members this language had been withdrawn. 

March 2013

On 15 March, the Group of Friends issued a joint statement, welcoming the next leg of Ross’s trip (20 March-3 April) and expressing their support for the mediation efforts undertaken by him. The statement also encouraged the parties to show flexibility in their engagement with the Personal Envoy and each other, in the hopes of ending the current impasse and achieving progress towards a political solution.

February 2013

From 28 January to 15 February, Ross continued his tour of members of the Group of Friends of Western Sahara (France, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US) aimed at building international support for the negotiations, visiting Washington, D.C. and Moscow, in addition to Germany and Switzerland.

November 2012

On 28 November, Council members were briefed in consultations by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, as well as the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINURSO, Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber. During the briefing, Ross shared the findings and recommendations that emerged from his recent visit to North Africa and Europe, which included his first visit to Western Sahara. Ross indicated that at this point he does not believe that convening another round of informal talks would advance the search for a solution, instead proposing to engage in a period of “shuttle diplomacy” with the parties and neighbouring states in the context of one or more visits to the region, including Western Sahara.

September 2012

On 19 September, the Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Morocco. Of the five recommendations specific to Western Sahara, Morocco said it was already implementing three. However, it did not support one regarding registration of organisations advocating for the Sahrawi right to self-determination and it rejected another calling for the establishment of a permanent human rights component in MINURSO.

June 2012

On 15 June, the Secretary-General appointed Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber (Germany) as his Special Representative and head of MINURSO to succeeded Hany Abdel-Aziz (Egypt), who completed his assignment on 30 April.

May 2012

Morocco, an elected member of the Security Council, informed the Secretary-General on 10 May that it had lost confidence in the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, describing his work as “unbalanced and biased.” Following this announcement, the Secretary-General asserted that he had complete confidence in Ross.

April 2012

On 24 April, Council members adopted resolution 2044 extending the mandate of MINURSO for another year. Earlier, on 17 April, Council members received a briefing in consultations on MINURSO and the Secretary-General’s report from the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy and the head of MINURSO. This followed a closed meeting with the troop- and police-contributing countries to MINURSO on 12 April.

March 2012

Morocco and the Polisario Front met for the ninth round of informal talks in Greentree, New York, from 11 to 13 March. After the meeting the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy issued a communiqué.

October 2011

The Council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on 26 October. He noted the lack of progress made by the parties to the Western Sahara conflict and the need for Council’s attention and support.

July 2011

On 22 July, the Secretary-General informed the Council of his intention to appoint Maj. Gen. Abdul Hafiz of Bangladesh as the new force commander of MINURSO. From 19 to 21 July, parties to the Western Sahara conflict met for the eighth round of informal talks, discussing two proposals (although not agreeing) on the issue of the electoral corps, mechanisms for self-determination, and the forms of guarantees.

June 2011

From 5 to 7 June, parties to the Western Sahara conflict met for the seventh round of informal talks.

April 2011

The Council adopted resolution 1979 on 27 April, extending MINURSO’s mandate until 30 April 2012 and adopting important language on human rights. Prior to the adoption, on 19 April, the Council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara on the negotiating process and by MINURSO’s Special Representative for Western Sahara. The Council met with troop- and police-contributing countries to MINURSO on the 18th.

March 2011

Informal talks on Western Sahara were held in Malta from 8 to 9 March. While each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as a sole basis for future negotiations, they agreed to explore innovative approaches.

November 2010

The Council was briefed by Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and DPKO on the situation in Western Sahara on 16 November. In remarks to the press, the Council deplored the violent clashes between Moroccan security forces and Western Saharan protestors in early November. Earlier, on 9 November, the Council members met informally at Mexico’s request. At the end of the informal meeting the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General issued a communiqué. This followed the third round of talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front from 7 – 9 March, where confidence-building measures were discussed.

April 2010

On 30 April, the Council adopted resolution resolution 1920 renewing MINURSO’s mandate until 30 April 2011, following a meeting with countries contributing troops and police to MINURSO on the 9th. The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Western Sahara was published on 6 April.

February 2010

The Council held informal consultations on 18 February. Morocco and the Polisario Front held informal meetings from 11-12 February facilitated by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, in accordance with resolution 1871, which urged the parties to continue dialogue to achieve acceptable political solution.

October 2009

The Secretary-General appointed Hany Abdel-Aziz of Egypt as his Special Representative for Western Sahara and the Head of MINURSO on 12 October.

April 2009

On 30 April, the Council extended the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) through resolution 1871. In his report to the Council the Secretary-General said that careful preparation was needed before holding a fifth negotiation round and that the parties had agreed with his Personal Envoy to hold one or more small, informal preparatory meetings.

17 March 2009

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced that two UN-led missions would visit the Tindouf camps to assess overall conditions for the refugees following concerns over malnutrition resulting from a 2008 survey.

January/February 2009

After taking up his post, Ross held talks in New York and then in February headed to the region for consultations with Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario. He visited Madrid and Paris and met the new US administration in Washington. While still in listening mode, he made clear that he would try a new approach and not call a fifth negotiation round (Van Walsum held four) until the ground had been prepared sufficiently to make some progress possible.

14 January 2009

The Secretary-General announced the appointment of Christopher Ross as his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

December 2008

Human Rights Watch issued a report on the human rights situation in Western Sahara and in the Tindouf refugee camps. It criticised Morocco and the Polisario for human rights abuses, but was condemned by Rabat as being excessively critical of Morocco.

August 2008

Van Walsum’s contract expired and was not renewed.

21 April 2008

Peter van Walsum gave his last briefing to the Council as Personal Envoy. He suggested moving the discussions away from the two proposals on the table presented by the parties and instead going forward on the temporary assumption that there would be no referendum with independence as an option without recognising Moroccan sovereignty. His conclusions were controversial and threatened to divide the Council. They were not reflected in the Secretary-General’s 14 April report and were not taken up by the Council.

17-18 March 2008

Morocco and the Polisario held the fourth round of talks in Manhasset in search of a mutually acceptable solution to the situation in Western Sahara.  Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, facilitated the discussions.  The talks focused on implementation of Council resolutions 1754 and 1783. They also focused on administration, justice and resources issues. After the talks, the Moroccan delegation made a statement about its territorial integrity, and said that the choice was not between autonomy and independence but between autonomy and status quo.

March 2008

The 2007 Western Sahara Country Report on Human Rights Practices by the US Department of State also noted that political rights for residents in Western Sahara remained circumscribed.  It added that “international human rights groups and Sahrawi activists maintained that the Moroccan government subjected Sahrawis who were suspected of supporting either Western Saharan independence or the Polisario to various forms of surveillance, arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and in many cases, torture.”

February 2008

Peter Van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, visited the region and held in-depth consultations with the parties. He met the Polisario Secretary-General Mohamed Abdelaziz and other members of the Polisario leadership on 9 February.  He also met senior Moroccan officials in Rabat.  He also held discussions with officials in Algiers and Nouakchott.

9 January 2008

Peter Van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, released a communiqué on the third round of talks between Morocco and the Polisario that took place on 8 and 9 January. It noted that the parties continued to have strong differences but had agreed on the need to move into a substantive phase. There was no progress on confidence-building measures, but there were preliminary discussions on thematic subjects, including administration, competencies and institutions.

January 2008

Human Rights Watch reported in its annual World Report that Morocco’s authorities continued to harass human rights defenders and Sahrawi activists in the Western Sahara. Repression of public protests, it says, was fiercer in Western Sahara than elsewhere in the kingdom.

14-20 December 2007

The Polisario held a “congress” (usually held every three to four years) in its outpost of Tifariti. In a statement carried by the Algerian official news agency, the Polisario said that if current negotiations fail, the Moroccan government would assume full consequences including possibly for resumption of hostilities.

10-11 August 2007

The second round of negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario was held in Manhasset, New York, under the same format as the previous round. The parties focused on ways to reinforce confidence-building measures such as contacts between Sahrawi refugees in the Algerian border area of Tindouf and their relatives in Western Sahara. The parties also discussed the implementation of resolution 1754.

27 June 2007

The Secretary-General submitted a report on the status and progress of the first round of negotiations. He noted that the two parties remained far apart on the definition of self-determination, despite having accepted resolution 1754. The Secretary-General had originally made recommendations in his report, including that the Council call on all member states to urge “both parties to make every effort to maintain the momentum and to impress upon them that a final resolution of the conflict will require flexibility and sacrifice from both of them.” He also made specific recommendations to Morocco and the Polisario. But because of concerns from both parties that this might negatively influence the next round, the report was reissued without this paragraph.

18-19 June 2007

Morocco and the Polisario held talks in Manhasset, outside New York, the first direct meeting between the parties since 2000. The Polisario stated its readiness to consider the Moroccan autonomy plan, but apparently continued to insist on a referendum on self-determination, including the option of independence. Morocco seemed ready to offer self-determination only based on autonomy.

11 April 2007

Morocco submitted its autonomy plan for Western Sahara entitled “Moroccan Initiative for Negotiating an Autonomy Statute for the Sahara Region” to the Secretary-General.  Polisario also presented to the Secretary-General a “Proposal for a Mutually Acceptable Political Solution that Provides for the Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara.”

March 2006

Morocco established a Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS, Conseil royal consultatif pour les affaires sahariennes) comprising all Moroccan political parties as well as Sahrawi leaders, but not Polisario.

6 November 2005

The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, announced the launching of a process of consultation with the parties on granting autonomy to Western Sahara.

11-17 October 2005

The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to Western Sahara visited the region and met with the parties.

18 August 2005

The Polisario released 404 Moroccan prisoners.

29 July 2005

The Secretary-General appointed Peter van Walsum as his Personal Envoy.

11 June 2004

James Baker resigned from his position as Personal Envoy to Western Sahara.  Álvaro de Soto, Special Representative for Western Sahara at that time, took over the political process.

July 2003

James Baker returned with a revised version of his plan, including safeguards that won Algerian and Polisario support. Moroccan settlers were able to vote, but Morocco rejected the plan.

23 May 2003

James Baker proposed another plan (Baker Plan II) which provided for a referendum in four to five years time and offered the inhabitants a choice between independence, autonomy or complete integration with Morocco. The plan was accepted by Polisario, Algeria and the Security Council but was rejected by Morocco.

20 June 2001

James Baker presented a “Framework Agreement” (Baker’s Plan I), in which the referendum would be replaced by a vote on limited autonomy. Morocco would control the territory while the Sahrawis would have had exclusive competence over local issues. The framework was accepted by Morocco but rejected by the Polisario.

September 1998

The process of identifying eligible voters was completed.

September 1997

The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, James Baker, conducted a successful round of talks between the parties which led to the adoption of the Houston Accords.

May 1996

The identification process was suspended. The civilian police component of MINURSO was withdrawn and the military component was reduced.

29 April 1991

Resolution 690 established UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with the mandate to implement the settlement proposals during a transitional period in which the referendum would be organised. The plan also created an identification commission to determine voters.

30 August 1988

The two parties agreed on the UN “settlement proposals,” which pushed for a ceasefire (effective in 1991) and the holding of a referendum to enable the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.

1984

Morocco withdrew from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to protest against the presence of the Polisario at the OAU summit.

1982

The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was admitted to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

1979

Mauritania renounced all claims on Western Sahara. Morocco took over the Mauritanian sector of Western Sahara.

27 February 1976

Morocco annexed Western Sahara. The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was founded and announced an armed struggle to achieve the right of self-determination. Fighting broke out between the Polisario and the Moroccan and Mauritanian armies. The population fled to refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.

26 February 1976

Spain withdrew from Western Sahara.

14 November 1975

Spain ceded Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania after the signature of the Madrid Accord.

6 November 1975

The “Green March” over the border between Western Sahara and Morocco moved around 350,000 Moroccans into the territory.

31 October 1975

Moroccan troops crossed the frontier and clashed with Polisario guerrillas.

16 October 1975

International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion was issued.

1973

Frente Polisario was formed and launched its first raids against Spanish colonisers.