The US is maintaining its position to reduce MINURSO’s mandate to six months, but Washington did not ask for the peacekeeping mission to include human rights monitoring.
Rabat – The latest news on the MINURSO mandate discussions at the UN are mere speculations set to change when the Security Council votes on the final draft of its Western Sahara resolution at the end of the month, MWN has learned from a source briefed on the ongoing talks.
There were reports earlier this week that Morocco thwarted a US move to include a human rights monitoring clause in the draft resolution on the renewal of the mandate of MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara.
According to the media, the US, in its capacity as the penholder of the first draft, sought to emphasize its “No more business as usual” policy by exerting pressure on conflicting parties. The move was allegedly initiated by John Bolton, the US national security advisor.
Bolton, who in December 2018 took a swipe at MINURSO for being ineffective and costly, is known for his desire to give a new direction to the US’ Western Sahara policy.
According to MWN’s source, however, the latest news is speculation solely based on Bolton’s past moves.
“The US did not seek to include any such mechanism in the draft resolution. This was neither included in the draft circulated to the Group of Friends for Western Sahara (France, US, UK, Russia, and Spain) nor in the draft circulated to the members of the Security Council,” the source said.
The source pointed out that much of the other news about MINURSO that has circulated in the media in the last days are only “sticking points” supported by Germany, Russia, and South Africa.
Until April 29, when the Security Council will adopt the final draft of the resolution, the existing sticking points are still subject to minor amendments or even substantive changes in some rare cases.
What is certain, though, the source elaborated, is that “contrary to news reports, none of the sticking points are against Morocco.”
Western Sahara not a priority for Algeria
Post-Bouteflika Algeria continues to experience waves of anti-establishment protests.
The resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the primary goal of the protests since Algerians opposed the prospect of his taking a fifth term, has turned out to be the tip of an iceberg of demands.
Weeks after Bouteflika stepped down, Algerians are still on the streets. They are asking for a radical overhaul of the country’s political leadership and have made it clear they will continue protesting until they get the country rid of the restricted club that “confiscated” politics under Bouteflika.
According to MWN’s source, Algeria’s domestic tumult has meant that Algiers, the Polisario Front’s fiercest supporter and the usual counterweight to Morocco’s Western Sahara efforts, “has not fought as hard for the resolution as in previous years.”
Instead of lobbying for a resolution that could have made the first draft’s “sticking points” relatively hostile to Morocco’s position, Algeria’s focus has been on “weathering the storm it is facing at home.”
Another Washington/Paris debate on mandate length
One point journalists got right in the past weeks is the continued disagreement between Washington and Paris over the duration of the peacekeeping mission, the source conceded.
The issue continues a trend which the US only initiated last year when it shocked the Western Sahara Friends committee with a proposal to extend MINURSO’s mandate for six months instead of the usual one year.
Washington maintains that more pressure is necessary to keep all parties coming to the same table to broker a settlement as quickly as possible.
France’s position is that the US’s policy has already achieved its goal.
All the four parties (Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Polisario) positively responded to UN special envoy Horst Kohler’s call to attend two Geneva roundtable meetings.
The four parties have also expressed readiness to join a third roundtable. Now that all parties have come to the table, France argues it is better to go back to the usual one-year mandate.
The US-France difference on mandate duration was, however, peripheral to the the Security Council consensus on the fundamentals, according to the source.
Throughout discussions, members states stressed that more steps should be taken towards the “actual political process.” The point is not to rely too heavily on reports and draft resolutions as was the case in the past decade, according to MWN’s source.
Rather than completely downplaying the role of the drafts and resolutions, however, the goal is to counter the sense of deja-vu and stasis that critics of the UN-led process have been raising.
The Kohler-moderated process will not make the resolutions irrelevant. Rather, it would seek to reduce the usual hype about reports and draft resolutions to invest more into the confidence building required for the political process.
“Since the past 10 years, the focus of all the parties was to get the most out of the April cycle or cut the losses and no energy was invested in the actual political process. Now the focus will be on the actual political process initiated in Geneva and less momentum will be given to the UNSG report.”