Western Sahara
UN threatens to abandon Western Sahara

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UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan

«The Security Council could decide to terminate the UN Mission in Western Sahara»

Kofi Annan

afrol News, 21 February - The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is tired of the "rather bleak" future for the stalled peace process in Western Sahara. He has presented three options for the UN's further commitment in the occupied territory, as a last alternative not to "terminate the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) due to the lack of progress."

Annan's latest report to the UN Security Council on Western Sahara, which went to the Council late Tuesday afternoon, details the recent efforts by his Personal Envoy, James Baker III, to find a solution to the dispute, and mentions his "disappointment at the lack of progress" towards such a solution. 

According to a press briefing in Washington yesterday by Marie Obake, Annan's spokesperson, the Secretary-General had said that, "in light of the bleak situation for the future of the peace process in Western Sahara, he and Baker believe there are four options for the Security Council to consider." 

The first was that the UN could resume trying to implement the settlement plan, "but without requiring the concurrence of both parties before taking action," according to Obake. 

The second is that Baker could try to revise the draft Framework Agreement - again, without seeking the concurrence of the parties. The third option is that Baker could explore with the parties for a final time whether they would be willing to discuss "a possible division of the territory." 

The fourth and final option, according to Obake, "is that the Security Council could decide to terminate the UN Mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) after recognizing, as the Secretary-General puts it, that 'after more than 11 years and the expenditure of sums of money nearing one-half billion dollars, the United Nations is not going to solve the problem of Western Sahara without requiring that one or the other or both of the parties do something that they do not wish to voluntarily agree to do.'"

The Secretary-General concludes that none of the options will appear ideal to all of the parties and interested countries. To give the Security Council more time to decide, he recommends a two-month extension of MINURSO's mandate, until 30 April. The present mandate of MINURSO ends on 28 February. The Council is scheduled to hold consultations on Western Sahara next Tuesday. 

While the POLISARIO still has not reacted to Annan's proposals, Morocco and POLISARIO ally Algeria have made it clear they would not accept a partition of the territory. 

Morocco's ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Bennouna, yesterday told the Moroccan state-run radio RTM the partition option was put forward by Algeria on behalf of "the separatists". Bennouna claimed the partition option was an Algerian scam to create "a micro-state which will be under the protection of Algeria".

The Algerian government already has denied these charges through its mission to the UN. A spokesman told the London-based newspaper 'Asharq Al Awsat' Algeria would "never accept a partition" of the territory. "What we have proposed was to put it under UN administration and go ahead with the peace and referendum process."

"Spain should take on responsibility"
POLISARIO earlier this week had proposed Spain, the former colonial power, should take on "its responsibility as the administrative power of the territory." In January, the UN Legal Counsel had ruled Morocco was not the legal "administrative power" of Western Sahara as the Madrid Agreement of 1975 (where the Spanish colonial power backed out of Sahara) "did not transfer sovereignty over the territory." 

POLISARIO hopes a Spanish claim on the territory's sovereignty would create a situation equal to the decolonisation of Eastern Timor, where Portugal had remained the legal administrative power while the territory was occupied by Indonesia. Given Spain's tense relations with its Moroccan neighbour, a stronger Spanish commitment however seems unlikely.

Sources: Based on UN, press reports and afrol archives.

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