UN mission in Western Sahara extended by two months

The Council’s unanimous adoption of a resolution to extend, until 31 July, the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) follows its consideration earlier this week of Mr. Annan’s latest report on the work of the Mission in which he proposes a new settlement option. He recommended the Council approve the peace plan, which was developed by his Personal Envoy, James Baker.The text adopted by the Council today commends Mr. Baker’s work in the Western Sahara, including his efforts to resolve the pending humanitarian issues related to the conflict and to implement confidence-building measures in the region led by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).In his report, Mr. Annan said that after many years of exemplary efforts by his Personal Envoy, the proposed peace plan – which combines elements of the draft framework agreement and agreed elements of the settlement plan – offers what could be an “optimum political solution” to the conflict. It would also provide the bona fide residents of Western Sahara, following an appropriate transitional period, the opportunity to determine their own future, which, in turn, would promote peace and stability in the region and would open the way to enhanced exchanges and cooperation between the countries of the Arab Maghreb Union.The draft framework favoured by Morocco, the territory’s administering power, would confer on the population of Western Sahara the right to elect their own executive and legislative bodies and have exclusive competence over local governmental administration. Within five years, a referendum on the final status of the territory would be held. The long-proposed settlement plan, favoured by Algeria and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y del Río de Oro (POLISARIO Front), calls for a referendum to allow the people of the Territory to choose between independence or integration with Morocco.The new peace plan – representing something of a “compromise,” Mr. Annan said – provides each side some, but not all, of what it wants. It envisages a period of transition during which there would be a division of responsibilities between the parties before the holding of a referendum for self-determination. “And unlike the settlement plan,” he added, “the peace plan does not require the consent of both parties at each and every step of its implementation.” read more