Security Council renews UN mission mandate in Western Sahara for a year
In Resolution 2494, adopted in a 13-0 vote, the 15-member council extended MINURSO's mandate till Oct. 31, 2020. Russia and South African abstained in the vote.
The Russian delegate pointed to "misguided attempts" to "change previously agreed upon approaches" inscribed in Security Council resolutions extending the mandates, which "undermine the impartial and unbiased approach: of council.
A 12-month mandate was the norm until 2018, when the United States pushed for a six-month mandate to increase pressure on the parties to work towards a peaceful solution to the Western Sahara question.
No change occurred in the political process during this past six-month mandate. The United States, penholder of Resolution 2494, resumed yearly renewal in drafting the document.
The resolution emphasized the need to achieve "a realistic, practicable and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based compromise."
Western Sahara was partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania at the end of Spain's colonial rule in 1976. When Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979, Morocco moved to occupy that sector and has since asserted administrative control over the whole territory. Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara.
A ceasefire was signed in 1991. MINURSO was deployed that year to monitor the ceasefire and to organize, if possible, a referendum on self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Wednesday's resolution expressed support for the incoming personal envoy of the UN secretary general to sustain the renewed negotiations process in order to achieve a solution to the Western Sahara question.
Former Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General Horst Kohler resigned on May 22. He had convened two roundtables since December 2018 with Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria, and Mauritania, first such meetings since 2012.
In their explanatory remarks after the vote, many Council members called for early appointment of Kohler's successor in order to build on the momentum he had achieved.
Many council members also expressed gratitude for the efforts made by UN Secretary-General' Special Representative for Western Sahara Colin Stewart and the MINURSO team.
The UN secretary-general's latest report on Western Sahara, published on Oct. 2, characterized the current situation in the territory as "relatively calm despite some uncertainty."