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Mandate of UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara extended for another year

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission tasked with organizing a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara for another year.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member Council called on Morocco and Frente Polisario – the parties to the conflict in Western Sahara – to “continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations.”

The resolution was adopted after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his latest report on the peacekeeping mission (known as MINURSO), recently welcomed both parties’ commitment to the process of negotiations and their willingness to engage in the preparatory informal format.

But he noted that two informal meetings under the auspices of his personal envoy Christopher Ross held in August 2009 and February this year produced no movement on the core substantive issues, and more work is needed before a fifth round can be held.

Mr. Ross’ efforts to promote a settlement have been “laborious,” the Secretary-General said. “Their pace and substance have been heavily affected by the parties’ reaction to events in the region and their unyielding attachment to mutually exclusive positions.”

Today’s resolution called on the parties to continue the dialogue under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions to achieve “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”

Last week, the Secretary-General expressed concern about alleged violations of human rights in the Western Sahara conflict and vowed to continue to promote the rights of Sahrawis after meeting with Mohamed Abdelaziz, Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario.

He reassured Mr. Abdelaziz of “the UN’s commitment to maintaining an active and balanced engagement in the search for a solution to the Western Sahara conflict that provides for the self-determination for the people of Western Sahara,” according to information released by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General stated that he remains very concerned about alleged violations of human rights. He said that his Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, and the Secretariat will continue to work to promote the human rights of Sahrawis.”

Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option. MINURSO was set up in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire reached in September of that year.

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