UN renews Western Sahara mission ahead of talks

Western Sahara (File, iStock)
Western Sahara (File, iStock)

The UN Security Council on Wednesday threw its weight behind planned talks on Western Sahara as it voted to extend for six months its decades-old mission in the disputed north African territory.

The council adopted a US-drafted resolution that renewed the mission, known as MINURSO, until April 30, setting a deadline for progress in the push to relaunch political talks.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 12 in favor in the 15-member council. Russia, Ethiopia and Bolivia abstained.

Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front have accepted a UN invitation to hold talks in Geneva December 5-6 that could pave the way to formal negotiations on ending the conflict.

These meetings will be the first held on Western Sahara since 2012.

The United Nations has repeatedly failed to broker a settlement in Western Sahara, where Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario fought for control from 1975 to 1991.

One of the UN's oldest missions, MINURSO was deployed in 1991 to monitor a ceasefire and organize a referendum on the status of the territory. That vote however never materialised.

A settlement in Western Sahara would allow the United Nations to consider a pullout of MINURSO at a time when the United States, the UN's number one financial backer, is seeking to reduce the cost of peace operations.

US Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the council that the United States will not allow the Western Sahara conflict "to slip into the shadows" and warned that MINURSO may be on the chopping block.

"Further renewals will not be automatic," said Cohen.

France, which has friendly ties with Morocco, had pushed for a one-year renewal of the mission to allow the new diplomatic effort to take hold, but in the end bowed to US insistence for a shorter extension.

"Shortening mandates seems to us to be a false good idea, without any real impact on the political process," French Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council.

The resolution welcomed the decision of the four parties to attend "without preconditions and in good faith" the Geneva talks convened by UN envoy Horst Koehler, a former German president.

Morocco however continues to maintain that negotiations on a settlement should focus on its proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara while the Polisario insists that the status of the territory - a former Spanish colony - should be decided in a referendum on independence.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
How has the delay in schools' opening impacted your life?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
It's a disaster! We're struggling to manage work and kids at home
41% - 1630 votes
It's a struggle, but we learnt lessons from last year's closures
19% - 771 votes
It's a relief, this second wave is bad and kids need to be at home
40% - 1580 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.23
(-0.77)
ZAR/GBP
20.84
(-0.63)
ZAR/EUR
18.51
(-0.51)
ZAR/AUD
11.75
(-0.66)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(-0.77)
Gold
1854.63
(-0.13)
Silver
25.31
(-0.86)
Platinum
1095.00
(-0.36)
Brent Crude
55.02
(0.00)
Palladium
2336.50
(-0.77)
All Share
64559.85
(+0.89)
Top 40
59408.05
(+0.89)
Financial 15
11549.82
(-1.16)
Industrial 25
88868.70
(+2.65)
Resource 10
62256.06
(-0.71)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo