Briefing on Western Sahara
Tomorrow (22 November), Council members will receive a briefing in consultations on the situation in Western Sahara. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) Kim Bolduc will deliver what is likely to be her last briefing in this capacity, as she has recently been appointed Deputy Special Representative for the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General Horst Kohler will be delivering 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.
The meeting will be the first since the Council on 28 April unanimously adopted resolution 2351, which renewed the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2018. The resolution called on the parties to the conflict to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith to facilitate a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. It also called upon the parties to demonstrate the political will to “work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations”, affirmingits full support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy towards a solution to the question of Western Sahara in this context to relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit leading to the resumption of a political process which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Personal Envoy Kohler, who was appointed on 16 August, is expected to update the Council on developments on the political process. Kohler held an eight-day series of meetings with the Secretary-General and the parties in New York in September, and conducted his first visit to the region in October. This included a visit to the Polisario-controlled part of Western Sahara, but not to the capital of Western Sahara, Laayoune, where MINURSO is headquartered on the Moroccan-held territory. Kohler also visited Rabat, and neighbouring countries Algeria and Mauritania. Council members will be interested in hearing from Kohler about his consultations. Of particular interest will be any updates from Kohler on the positions of the parties. On 6 November, Moroccan King Mohammed VI gave a speech on the anniversary of the Green March in which he reiterated that there can be no solution to the question of Western Sahara other than within the framework of Morocco’s full sovereignty over “its Sahara” and the Autonomy Initiative put forward by Morocco. Meanwhile, the Polisario maintains that a referendum with independence as an option is the only acceptable solution. Council members will be interested in hearing what Kohler’s plans are for the relaunching of the political process, given these dynamics.
Resolution 2351 requested the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council on a regular basis, and at least twice a year, on the status and progress of the negotiations under his auspices as well as the implementation of the resolution, and further requested him to update the Security Council within six months of the appointment of the new Personal Envoy on progress towards a mutually acceptable political solution; the development and implementation of MINURSO’s performance measures; the reorganisation of structures and staffing; and the use of new technologies in reducing risk, improving force protection, and implementing MINURSO’s mandate. There seem to be differing views among Council members as to whether tomorrow’s briefing serves as the regular bi-annual briefing as well as the update six months after the appointment of the new Personal Envoy or if another briefing would be due by February, and members are hoping that this point will be clarified during the meeting.