The Security Council adopted on Friday afternoon a new resolution extending MINURSO's mandate for six months until October 31, 2018. Unlike last year, the resolution was adopted without consensus, with three members abstaining from voting, Russia, Ethiopia and China.
Rabat – The Security Council adopted on Friday afternoon a new resolution extending MINURSO’s mandate for six months until October 31, 2018. Unlike last year, the resolution was adopted without consensus, with three members abstaining from voting, Russia, Ethiopia and China.
Resolution 2414 was initially scheduled to be adopted on Wednesday, but due to lack of agreements between members of the council, the vote was deferred until today. Despite Russia and Ethiopia’s attempt to water down the language of the draft resolution and avoid “alienating” the Polisario, no major changes were made to the final version of the resolution.
However, there are two changes in the latest draft compared to the original resolution circulated to the members of the Council on Monday, April 23. The first consists in renewing MINURSO’s mandate for six months only rather than 12 months.
The second change relates to the Council’s call on Algeria and Mauritania to fully contribute to the negotiation process. Whereas the first draft called on the neighboring states to “increase their engagement in the negotiating process and to fulfill their special essential role in supporting the political process,” the language of the final draft calls on the neighboring states to merely “make important contributions to the political process and to increase their engagement in the negotiating process.”
Essentially, the language of the final draft has been watered down in a way that it relieves pressure on Algeria, the main supporter of the Polisario. Morocco has repeatedly called on Algeria to be fully involved in the political process, since it is the country that hosts, arms, and supports the Polisario politically and diplomatically.
Emphasis on Morocco’s autonomy proposal
Like in last year’s resolution, preamble paragraph of the resolution gives preeminence to the Moroccan autonomy plan presented on April 2007 by “welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution.” Meanwhile, the resolution merely mentions the counter-proposal that the Polisario submitted the same month without giving it any credit for moving the political process forward.
Regarding the recent tensions in the whole area east of Morocco’s defense wall, the resolution commended the “measured response of Morocco to most recent concerns regarding the buffer strip.”
Other than the usual language contained in the remaining preamble paragraphs, the operative paragraphs of the resolution contain positive language overall for Morocco.
Taking note of Morocco’s calls to United Nations to stop the Polisario’s attempts to change the status quo in the whole area east of Morocco’s defense wall, including the buffer zone, the Security Council has expressed “concern” over the Polisario’s actions and called for its immediate withdrawal from the Guerguerat region.
In addition, the Security Council expresses its concern over Polisario’s announcement to transfer administrative functions to the zones of Tifariti and Bir Lahlou and “calls for the Polisario Front to refrain from any such destabilizing actions.”
Security Council calls for a “realistic” and “practical” solution to the Western Sahara conflict
Besides the paragraphs on tensions in the area east of Morocco’s defense wall, the most significant change in this year’s resolution in comparison to previous years is it emphasis on the need that the parties to the conflict work towards reaching a “realistic” solution.
Paragraph 2 of the resolution emphasizes the need for the parties to “make progress toward a realistic, practicable, and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based on compromise and the importance of aligning the strategic focus of MINURSO and orienting resources of the United Nations to this end.”
This is a highly significant change in that it is first time the Security Council uses such language in a resolution related to the Western Sahara conflict. Since the adoption of Resolution 1754 in April 2007, the Security Council had never used such terms. In the resolutions adopted since, the council instead called the parties to show “realism and compromise” towards reaching a political solution.
This language is positive for Morocco, as it puts more emphasis on the fact that a solution to the conflict would only be achieved if the parties worked out a formula that is realistic and viable. Since Morocco submitted its Autonomy Proposal to the Security Council in 2007, a number of influential members of the Security Council, such as France and the United States, have described it as “serious, realistic” and credible,” paving the way towards reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict.
Meanwhile, the Polisario submitted a counter-proposal to the Security Council, which emphasizes that any resolution to the conflict must be achieved through the holding of a referendum for self-determination, which maintains independence as a potential outcome. Many observers, as well as former UN officials, ruled out the possibility that an independent state can be established in southern Morocco. In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais in August 2008, former United Nations Secretary General Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Peter Van Walsum, said that the establishment of an independent state in southern Morocco was “unrealistic.”
Morocco has repeatedly emphasized that any solution calling for the independence of the territory is red a line, stressing that autonomy is the most it can offer.
While the Security Council has renewed its call for the parties to resume negotiations in order to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution, it remains to be seen whether Morocco will accept direct talks with the Polisario. Given Morocco’s calls for the United Nations to push Algeria to fully partake in the political process, it is unlikely that Morocco will engage in such a negotiations as long as Algeria is not involved as a full-fledged party.
However, based on the dynamic of negotiations within the Security Council, it seems that the latter its moving towards calling clearly on Algeria to become fully involved in the political process. Though Russia watered down the language of the resolution, that the first draft adds a new paragraph calling on Algeria and Mauritania to fulfill their “special essential role in supporting the political process,” is an indication that the Security Council is moving towards viewing Algeria as part of the problem and part of the solution.
If by the end of October 2018, no progress has been achieved and Morocco continues to shot down any UN request of direct engagement with the Polisario, the Security Council might push harder to call more clearly on Algeria to be involved in the political process.