The 15 members of the UN Security Council are due to adopt a new resolution extending MINURSO’s mandate for six months. The final draft of the resolution, which was obtained by Morocco World News, was put in blue and submitted to the secretariat of the Security Council in preparation for the vote this afternoon.
Rabat – After a debate between the US and France and other members of the Security Council, the Council decided on the mandate of the UN mission in the Western Sahara, also known as MINURSO.
The powerful organ at the UN decided that the MINURSO mandate should be renewed for six months, which the US supported, instead of one year, which France supported.
The resolution “emphasizes the need to achieve 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.”
According to the final draft of the resolution, the Security Council expresses “full support” for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy Horst Kohler and his efforts to find an agreed upon and mutually acceptable solution for the Western Sahara conflict.
The resolution also includes a paragraph in which the Security Council welcomed the parties’ favorable response to Kohler’s invitations for round-table talks in Geneva on December 5-6.
The Security Council “expresses its full support for the intention of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to initiate a renewed negotiations process before the end of 2018; notes that invitations to an initial roundtable meeting in Geneva on 5 and 6 December 2018 were sent on 28 September 2018, welcomes that Morocco, the Frente Polisario, Algeria, and Mauritania have responded positively, and encourages them to work constructively with the Personal Envoy, in the spirit of compromise, throughout the duration of this process to ensure a successful outcome.”
The language of this paragraph carries significant political weight in that it mentions Algeria and Mauritania on equal footing with Morocco and the Polisario. Algeria has long sought to deny any direct involvement in the conflict and striven to ensure that the language of Security Council resolutions refers to it as a neighboring country.
Sources acquainted with the conflict told Morocco World News that the letter that the UNSG Personal Envoy sent to Algeria and Mauritania in late September is identical to the one he sent to Morocco and the Polisario. The same source added that the UN official made no distinction in the letter between the parties and neighboring countries.
On October 3, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres submitted a report to the Security Council, informing them that Kohler invited Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and Polisario to the roundtable talks.
Guterres said that all parties should respond to Kohler’s invitation without preconditions.
Kohler’s invitation to Algeria is a diplomatic gain for Morocco as it is the first time the Security Council has mentioned Algeria in its draft resolution since the launch of the UN-led political process in 2007.
After receiving the draft resolution from the US, which wrote it in its capacity as a penholder of the resolution, the members of the Security Council held their first meeting to discuss the MINURSO mandate Monday, October 29.
According to exclusive information obtained by Morocco World News, Algeria’s inclusion in the draft resolution raised eyebrows in pro-Algeria quarters.
Morocco has been calling on Algeria to shoulder its responsibility and admit its role as a main party to the conflict. However, Bouteflika’s government considers itself only a neighboring country to the conflict.
Monday’s meeting also witnessed a debate between the US and other countries which support Morocco’s demand to extend MINURSO’s mandate to one year, including France, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Kuwait.
According to MWN’s information, the US was determined to extend MINURSO’s mandate for no more than six months. Through this move, the US aims to pressure the parties to the conflict to show their willingness to be involved in serious negotiations before accepting a one-year extension for the MINURSO mandate.
In response to Polisario’s provocative actions east of Morocco’s defense wall and Western Sahara, the resolution calls on the front to refrain from taking any action that might destabilize the region or that seeks to change the status quo of the area located east of Morocco’s defense wall.
“Further calls on the Frente Polisario to fully adhere to its commitments to the Personal Envoy with respect to Bir Lahlou, Tifariti, and the buffer strip at Guerguerat,” reads the second part of operative paragraph 6.
Tifariti, which has long been called a liberated zone by the Polisario, was also included in the final version of the resolution. The area was not included in the first draft of the resolution obtained by Morocco World News on Monday.
The Security Council, therefore, is using language that can be seen as a blow to the Polisario’s claims that Tifariti, located east of the Moroccan defense wall, is a “liberated territory.”
After the adoption of the new resolution, Polisario is unlikely to take similar provocative steps to the actions of its armed elements in the past two years.
At Monday’s meeting, some members of the Security Council contested the resolutions’ provisions deemed as “strong” against the Polisario Front.
Influential members at the Council, including the US, appear to be very careful to warn against any action that might disrupt the UN-led political process because Polisario attempts to change the status quo and impose a fait accompli in the buffer zone.
The resolution also “calls upon the parties to respect their relevant obligations and assurances, and refrain from any actions that could undermine UN-facilitated negotiations or further destabilize the situation in the Western Sahara.”
Earlier in October, local news outlets reported that armed Polisario elements assaulted a MINURSO-controlled site in Mijek in Western Sahara.
Mijek is located east of the Moroccan defense wall in Western Sahara, which makes it a part of the Military Agreement 1 and a no-go area for Polisario. Following the alleged provocative action, Morocco’s Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi said that Morocco’s diplomatic achievements anger Polisario.
El Khalfi said that Polisario’s provocations in Western Sahara “are a desperate attempt that is doomed to fail like those that preceded it.”
The Security Council resolution “reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire and calls on the parties to adhere fully to those agreements.”