Rabat - The past two weeks have witnessed intense negotiations on the dispute pitting Morocco against Ban Ki-moon.
Rabat – The past two weeks have witnessed intense negotiations on the dispute pitting Morocco against Ban Ki-moon.
Following Morocco’s decision to expel 84 personnel of the civilian component of the United Nations Mission in the Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, Ban Ki-moon was hopeful he would receive the support of the Security Council and get its members to condemn Morocco’s reaction to his use of the term “occupation” during his recent visit to the Tindouf camps earlier this month.
To Ban Ki-moon’s dismay, the executive body of the Security Council failed to agree on a consensual language and issue a press statement or a presidential statement in his favor.
Division begun to arise in the Council since the first exceptional meeting held to discuss the development of the issue on Thursday March 17. Despite the hostile statement made by UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who accused Morocco of escalating the tension without resorting to diplomatic measures, there was no consensus among members of the Council about the action it should take to diffuse tensions between Morocco and Ban Ki-moon.
According to a detailed account of the deliberations by the New York-based Security Council Report, while some members of the UN’s executive body pushed for the adoption of a press statement to show support for the Secretary General, arguing that the credibility of the Council was at stake, France, Egypt, Senegal, Spain and Japan, showed their opposition to such an approach. The five countries argued that that the dispute was between Rabat and the UN chief, and does not necessitate the involvement of the Council.
As result, following intense deliberations at the Mach 17 meeting, the Council decided that its members should engage bilaterally with Morocco to end the tension that had arisen between Morocco and the UN chief.
The Council’s lack of support for the Secretary General caused a sentiment of disappointment and displeasure within the UN Secretariat.
Angola’s failed attempt to obtain support for the Secretary General
During the deliberations that were held starting from last Monday March 21, Angola proposed a draft statement in which the Security Council would express deep concern at Morocco’s decision to expel the civil component of the MINURSO and express full support for the Secretary-General, his Personal Envoy Christopher Ross and Special Representative and head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc.
Angola’s draft text failed to obtain the consensus of all members of the Council, especially from France, Egypt, Senegal, Japan and Spain. Egypt opposed the language of support for Ban Ki-moon contained in the draft statement and proposed extensive revisions to it.
Arguing that Morocco’s decision to expel MINURSO’s civil component was made after “an unfortunate misrepresentation of the UN’s official position on the question of Western Sahara,” Egypt proposed removing any references incriminating Morocco for not allowing MINURSO to function, and replacing “full support” with “continuing support” for the Secretary General. Egypt’s move was backed by Senegal, which added an amendment to the final paragraph that would also show support for Morocco.
On March 23, Angola circulated a new draft statement that included some of Egypt’s proposed amendments, but kept almost the same language of the initial draft statement. But once again, the new draft did not obtain the consensus of members of the Council with France, Egypt and Senegal arguing that the adoption of a press statement could inflame tensions between Morocco and Ban Ki-moon.
Later the same day, New Zealand proposed a more neutral press statement. While it took note of the assessment of the Secretariat that a continuation of the situation could have serious implications for the functioning of the mission, and expressed concern at the departure of the civilian component o MINURSO, the new version of the draft statement contained no expression of support for Ban Ki-moon. France, Senegal, Egypt and Japan aborted Venezuela’s attempt to add an expression of support to the Secretary General, arguing that such a language could be perceived by Morocco as a clear endorsement by the Council of the statement made by the UN chief.
France opposes the adoption of any action or statement
During the lengthy deliberations that were held on Thursday March 24, France showed opposition to the adoption of any action or statement that could suggest the expression of the Council’s support for Ban Ki-moon.
While two thirds of the Council’s members agreed in principle with the amended draft submitted by New Zealand, France, Egypt and Senegal said during the morning session that the timing for the adoption of such a statement was not right and called on the Council to meet again later in the afternoon after the consultations that Morocco’s foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar was scheduled to hold with political parties.
Mezouar’s statement that Rabat’s decision regarding MINURSO was “sovereign and irreversible” did not help bridge the gap between the positions of the Council’s members.
Following three hours of intense deliberations, members of the Security Council decided to use New Zealand’s draft text as basis for the adoption of “press elements,” which means the weakest outcome Ban Ki-moon could hope for.
The “press elements” that Angola’s Ambassador Gaspar Martins, President of the Security Council for March, presented to the press were a watered down version of the already weaker and more neutral draft text proposed by New Zealand. The press elements expressed no support for the Secretary General. It did not express “deep concern” at Morocco’s decision to expel the civilian component of MINURSO.
UN experts and analysts say the position adopted by the UN executive body last week constituted a huge setback for Ban Ki-moon.