Expected Council Action
In November, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, is expected to brief Council members in informal consultations after an informal meeting between Morocco and the Polisario Front to be held early in November.
No Council decision is expected but members are likely to signal both their support for the personal envoy’s mandate and concerns about progress.
Key Recent Developments
In October Ross conducted his fourth regional tour in preparation for the informal meeting, which he will facilitate in accordance with resolution 1920. (Adopted on 30 April 2010, the resolution calls on the parties to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith.) Ross met high-level officials in Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and the city of Tindouf in western Algeria. His message was that the status quo for Western Sahara in the long-term is “untenable” given the “costs and dangers it induces.” Ross asked for political goodwill to undertake “unconditional negotiations” to overcome the status quo. Ross also stressed the need to revive confidence-building measures.
Since the deadlock following the second informal meeting in February, Ross appears focused on finding additional options to nudge the process forward. Based on an 18 June 2010 memo leaked to the media, Ross believes that since the UN cannot convince the parties to “abandon their unyielding attachment to mutually exclusive positions,” “specific support” from the Council and the Group of Friends of Western Sahara is needed. (The group of friends are France, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US.) Ross noted that since parties lacked the political will to enter into “genuine negotiations,” “priority attention” should be given to “confidence-building measures.” Ross said that progress on these measures—such as the resumption of special flights for family visits in accordance with the action plan of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—will build momentum and serve as a “clear signal” that the parties can work together.
It seems that the Group of Friends may be asked to assist with high-level approaches to Morocco, the Polisario Front and Algeria, urging them to consider that:
the status quo in the long-term is unacceptable, especially because of the risk of a drift toward extremist or criminal activities among Sahrawi youth and because the absence of a settlement prevents regional integration, development and comprehensive security cooperation;
confidence-building measures, such as family visits as proposed by UNHCR and the personal envoy, should receive urgent attention;
human-rights violations and the protection of refugees must be addressed; and
creating a conducive atmosphere for meetings is needed.