What's In Blue

Posted Mon 17 Oct 2016

Western Sahara Consultations

Tomorrow (18 October), Special Representative and head of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) Kim Bolduc and Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General Christopher Ross will brief Council members in the regular semi-annual briefing.

Special Representative Bolduc is expected to update Council members on the activities of MINURSO, particularly 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. It appears that security elements of both sides remain at the location, in violation of Military Agreement No. 1 of the ceasefire. MINURSO is also present, conducting ground and helicopter patrols. Council members will be interested in hearing whether MINURSO’s proposals for defusing the situation have made any headway with the parties.

It seems that there have been no significant developments on the situation in Al Guergarat since DPKO head HervĂ© Ladsous last briefed Council members under “any other business” on 29 September, at the request of Angola, Uruguay and Venezuela. It seems that at that meeting most Council members expressed concern that there had been no resolution to the situation. Ladsous apparently said that the lack of guidance from the Council, which had not issued any response to the situation that began in mid-August, undermined the Council’s credibility with the parties. Angola, New Zealand, the UK, Uruguay and Venezuela urged members to agree on press elements that called on both parties to show restraint and support MINURSO’s efforts. The US seems to have advocated a quieter approach, and proposed a demarche by the Council president to both parties to convey the Council’s concerns and urge a resolution to the situation. However, both approaches were rejected by France and there was no outcome from the meeting.

Bolduc is likely to update Council members also on efforts to restore MINURSO to full functionality and the mission’s efforts to carry out recruitment and fill vacancies created in March, when Morocco called for the expulsion of the mission’s civilian staff after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon characterised Morocco’s relationship to the territory as an “occupation”.

Personal Envoy Ross is expected to update Council members on his efforts towards organising a fifth round of negotiations between the parties, and may seek support from the Council in this regard. In resolution 2285, which in April renewed MINURSO’s mandate for one year, the Council called on the parties to continue negotiations without preconditions with a view to achieving a political solution to provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. Council members will be interested in hearing whether Ross has made progress with the parties towards heeding this call.

Morocco has circulated a note to members of the Council ahead of tomorrow’s consultations. Concerning the situation in Al Guergarat, it accuses the Polisario of attempting to politicise what it claims to be an operation to clear the area of illicit trafficking and criminal activities and not an attempt to alter the status quo on the ground. It asserts that its operation has been conducted in conformity with the ceasefire agreement and in constant coordination with MINURSO. This contradicts what DPKO conveyed to the Council in a 28 August note that reported Moroccan work had been initiated without prior notice to MINURSO, contrary to requirements specified in Military Agreement No. 1. The note also expresses Morocco’s commitment to the political process in accordance with the autonomy plan it put forward in 2007, says that it has requested the rescheduling of Ross’s upcoming regional tour due to elections and the formation of a new government, and notes that the Secretary-General will be visiting Rabat in mid-November ahead of his participation in COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakech.