Wednesday, December 8

Battle at the UN Security Council for the Western Shara


The resolution to extend the mandate of the Ministry for one year creates tensions between the US, Russia and France that weigh down the debut of the special envoy, Staffan de Mistura

Staffan de Mistura.
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The draft resolution to be voted on this Friday in New York to extend the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in the Western Shara (Minurso) it has unleashed a great battle within the United Nations Security Council. The United States, which is in charge of drafting the resolutions in relation to the Western Shara (what is called in the jargon of the organization ‘penholder’), has experienced serious difficulties in getting the resolution adopted, which contemplates extending the mandate of Minurso for one year.

The diplomatic scuffle reflects the turbulence in the region, in effervescence since the end of 2020. Then two events occurred that triggered the tension: the end of the ceasefire that Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed to in 1991 was declared and Trump announced that the United States unilaterally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Shara in the epilogue of his mandate. Throughout 2021, the situation worsened with a diplomatic crisis unleashed by Morocco with Spain and Germany, during the first semester, and with the breakdown of relations between Algeria and Morocco, last August.

The result of all this on the Security Council table has been that several countries have fallen behind the initial draft. After a failed round of negotiations to reach a consensus on it, the US presented a revised wording of the draft on Tuesday, October 26. Russia block text on Wednesday – the day his vote was initially scheduled – alleging that “he is not satisfied with the paragraphs relating to the political process” and in support of Algeria’s refusal, expressed a few days before, to resume the negotiation format of “round tables. round “. This was the formula devised by the then UN special envoy for Shara Horst Khler to attract all parties to dialogue. But Khler finally resigned in the spring of 2019, in the absence of results.

His post was left unfilled until October 7, when the UN Secretary General, Antnio Guterres, managed to appoint the veteran diplomat Staffan de Mistura with the consensus of the parties, after “burning” a dozen candidates. However, Mistura’s debut – which opens on November 1 – could not be more weighed down, amid the division in the Security Council and the hostile environment that is breathed in the region.

On October 22, Algeria informed the Security Council that it would not participate in “round table” negotiations since it considers this format “counterproductive”. This negotiation design places Morocco and the Polisario Front at the table, as well as Algeria and Mauritania as observers. On the contrary, Algiers advocates “direct negotiations” between Rabat and the Saharawi organization. The Algerian special envoy for the Western Shara and the Maghreb, Amar Belani, told the local official APS agency that the first draft resolution – presented on October 19 – was “deeply unbalanced.”

Moscow has also criticized that the text was biased and advocates removing the term “realistic” from the resolution regarding finding a political solution, arguing that it is not based on international law. This adjective was introduced for the first time in resolution 2414 of April 27, 2018.

In addition to Russia, with whom China has aligned itself, another country that has expressed its disagreement with the wording of the resolution is Kenya. “Our red line is the question of self-determination,” noted the Kenyan ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, who is also currently the president of the Security Council. “We want self-determination to be clearly indicated in the resolution and this is not a deviation from how things should be, but a continuation. If there is no recognition of the right to self-determination, we will have difficulties with the resolution,” he added, specifying that it was expressed as Kenyan ambassador.

No consensus

In recent years, the votes to extend the mandate of the Ministry have passed with divergences and without a unanimous vote. Since 2017, permanent members China and Russia and some elected members have abstained from voting on the resolution.

One of the movements that has generated the most tension has been the attempt to introduce a mandate on Human Rights in the Ministry -the only United Nations mission that does not have this component-. Rejection has been the position of France, aligned with Morocco, frontally opposing the addition of this element, when some countries advocated precisely to undertake a readjustment of the Minurso at this time. Paris has also supported the “round table” format, in line with the preference of Morocco, which prefers to negotiate with Algeria and not directly with the Polisario Front. As a novelty, Israel’s entry into Maghreb geopolitics as a result of Trump’s tweet and the reestablishment of relations with Rabat, has been noted in the Western Shara conflict, where Israel has expressed its support for “direct negotiations” to solve the problem. contentious.

The Western Shara is one of the longest running conflicts on the planet. Since Spain abandoned its colony in 1975, the territory has been occupied by Morocco, which controls 80% of the territory, the Shara to, rich in mineral resources, fishing banks and with the prospect of harboring hydrocarbons. The Western Shara is considered by the United Nations as a “non-autonomous territory” and, therefore, pending decolonization and the indigenous population choosing its future.

Over the decades, the UN has been abandoning in the language of its resolutions the mention of the path of self-determination and has instead shifted towards terms such as “negotiated solution” or “political solution”. Morocco has successively rejected the holding of a self-determination referendum for the Saharawi population and proposes autonomy within the kingdom. For its part, the Polisario Front – whose main support is Algeria – calls for a referendum of self-determination that contemplates the option of independence, under the auspices of the UN, as had been reflected in the 1991 plan that ended the armed conflict between the Polisario and Rabat, and today already wet paper.

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