Western sahara Major events
For many centuries, Morocco had played a major role in the old Maritime Silk Road, connecting the major civilizations of Asia, Europe and Africa.
With the Belt and Road Initiative, Morocco is set to regain its role and contribute to the embodiment of China’s promising proposal to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in cooperation with related countries.
The North African kingdom offers a number of assets to contribute to this ambitious initiative. Morocco enjoys a long-standing history of exchange and cooperation with the countries along the old Silk Road, and China, which will host the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on May 14 and 15, is on the top of them.
Morocco and China share a long history of exchanges and a long tradition of friendship. Back in the middle of the seventh century, one Chinese, named Du Huan, already travelled to Morocco. Later on, in the 13th century, Wang Dayuan of the Yuan dynasty also went as far as Morocco.
In the 14th century, Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta travelled to China and had stayed nearly three decades in the country. In the end of his travels to various countries, he wrote a book where he dedicated a whole chapter to his journey to China, narrating with great amazement the grandeur of Chinese civilization.
Despite the far geographic distance between the two countries, their exchange has never stopped. The North African kingdom was the second country (Egypt was the first one) in the continent to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1958, and bilateral cooperation progressed slowly but steadily.
In recent years, Morocco and China intensified their economic cooperation. China has become Morocco’s fourth trade partner with over 3.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2015. Chinese investment in Morocco increased by 195 percent and 93 percent in 2014 and 2015.
During Morocco’s King Mohammed VI’s visit to Beijing in May 2016, the two countries decided to establish China-Morocco strategic partnership, opening new chapter in the bilateral relations.
Since this historical visit, a significant increase in the exchange has taken place. Many joint ventures have been launched, including a mega project of building industrial park in the Northern city of Tangiers with 10 billion dollars investments.
In addition to the bilateral cooperation, Morocco and China reach consensus on many issues, particularly non-intervention and building mutually-beneficial South-South cooperation. In this connection, Morocco sees promising cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, especially in Africa.
“Morocco has strategic depth in West Africa, built on historical, cultural and religious relations. It can play a key role in linking (West African) countries to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and open new opportunities in the fast-growing economies of West Africa,” Morocco’s former ambassador to China, Jaafar Hakim Laalej, said in a previous interview.
The kingdom is already the top investor in West Africa and the second largest African investor in the continent.
Morocco greatly appreciates China’s continued contributions to the development of Africa.
“China’s assistance to Africa over the years has benefited the African people,” King Mohammed VI said during his visit to Beijing, adding that his country “stands ready to become China’s important cooperative partner in the African continent.”
Apart from that, Morocco enjoys strong relations with Arab and European countries.
The combination of all these factors make of Morocco a trusted partner in implementing China’s initiative. The kingdom anticipates great opportunities.
“The Belt and Road Initiative heralds a new era of cooperation that will benefit all. Morocco embraces the initiative fully and is optimistic about it,” Laalej said.
The Belt and Road Initiative will bring countless opportunities to Moroccan economy, that’s for sure, he underlined, adding that Morocco and China are committed to a strategic partnership, and the initiative will definitely boost that framework, both economically and socially.
Morocco experienced the benefits of the old Maritime Silk Road, and with its standing as a gateway in Africa, the country is looking ahead for more beneficial cooperation within the Belt and Road Initiative.
The level of terror threat has been raised to four out of five and the total of 207 terrorists has been detained in the country since 2015, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry.
“Police Officers from the General Commissariat of Information of the National Police have detained in Badalona (Barcelona) and Salou (Tarragona) two men of Moroccan nationality, aged 21 and 32, for integration with a sell attached to DAESH, while, together with the National Police, Morocco’s Directorate of Surveillance of the National Territory has carried out detention in Tangier (Morocco) of the third member of the same cell,” the statement said.
The statement noted that the two men detained in Spain maintained contacts with Daesh members in Syria and Iraq, demonstrated a desire to pursue Jihad and wanted to die like martyrs. In addition, one of them was in Spain illegally.
National regulator ANRT reported that Morocco reached 16.97 million mobile internet users in March, representing an annual growth of 27.5 percent. In the same period, ADSL customers increased by 8.5 percent to reach 1.27 million.
While retaining the highest share of mobile internet users, Maroc Telecom (IAM) saw its dominance eroded with 47.5 percent of the market, down from 49.6 percent in the previous quarter and 50.9 percent a year earlier. Rivals Orange Morocco and Inwi shared the rest of subscriptions, with a market share of 26.8 and 25.7 percent respectively.
Looking at the overall mobile base, the first quarter saw a continuation of the key trends shaping the Moroccan market. Postpaid connections remained on an upward trend, accounting for 7 percent of the country’s 41.78 million mobile subscriptions, while the LTE base continued to increase at a strong pace, rising by 21 percent since December 2016 to reach 3.4 million at the end of March.
by Ehab Farouk
(Corrects book value year in paragraph 4 to 2016, not 2017)
CAIRO May 7 (Reuters) – Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank paid twice book value to acquire Barclays’ Egyptian business and hopes the acquisition will enable it to increase its market share in Egypt to 5 percent within five years, the Moroccan bank’s CEO said.
The bank plans to rename the unit Attijariwafa Bank Egypt and raise its profile in Egypt, CEO Mohamed El Kettani said.
Britain’s Barclays reached a deal last year to sell its Egyptian banking unit to Attijariwafa Bank, one of Morocco’s largest banks, but the value of the deal, which closed this month, has not been disclosed by either side.
Kettani, speaking to Reuters on Sunday, would not put an exact dollar figure on the acquisition but said it was twice Barclays Egypt’s 2016 book value or about seven times its expected net profit for 2017.
Sources had told Reuters previously that the Barclays Egypt business was valued at around $400 million.
Kettani expects the cost of the deal to be recovered in five to seven years.
Attijariwafa hopes the acquisition will enable it to increase its market share in Egypt to 5 percent within five years, from about 1-1.5 percent currently, and it plans to add new services such as leasing and insurance, said Kettani.
In the next few days the bank will choose an international consulting firm to develop a five-year strategy for its Egypt operations.
“Attijari Bank Egypt will be the group’s entryway to Gulf states and East Africa,” Kettani said.
(Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Susan Fenton)
The North Africa Post
Morocco’s foreign ministry voiced satisfaction with the support expressed by the US for a political solution to the Sahara issue based on the autonomy proposal under the Kingdom’s sovereignty.
In a statement issued Friday following the adoption by the Congress of the US 2017 appropriation bill, the foreign ministry “welcomed the provisions relating to the Moroccan Sahara in the 2017 appropriations bill.”
The bill, adopted by the Congress and promulgated by the American President Friday, provides for the use of funds allocated to Morocco in all the national territory including the Saharan provinces, underscores the statement.
The statement adds that the provisions on the Sahara and the report accompanying the bill reflect the Congress’s unambiguous support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative. The report also emphasizes that “the Secretary of State should pursue a negotiated settlement of this dispute, in accordance with the United States’ policy supporting a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty”.
The Foreign Ministry also welcomed that, within the same bill, the US administration is encouraged “to support investments of the private sector in the Western Sahara”.
The same bill hints at the corruption and embezzlement by the Polisario and its mentor Algeria of humanitarian aid sent to Tindouf camps by stressing the need for more control of the aid sent to the refugees across North Africa.
To avoid a government shutdown, the White House and top lawmakers endorsed a $1.1 trillion spending bill after Republicans dropped numerous demands on the environment, Obama-era financial regulations and abortion in marathon sessions.
The bill includes $53.1 billion for foreign aid and State Department diplomacy, a $400 million increase that runs counter to the administration’s vow to slash foreign assistance.
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North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.
The News Nigeria
By Rasheed Akinkuolie
The Western Sahara or Saharoui, Spanish Sahara, Moroccan Sahara, SADR were different names at different times given to this highly disputed territory in West Africa. The controversy of sovereignty over Western Sahara is still ongoing, whereas, it ought to have ended with Spanish de-colonization and departure in 1976.
A new dispute emerged soon after which pitched the Alaouite Kingdom of Moroco against the Polisario Liberation Front (PLF) backed by Algeria over sovereignty over the Western Sahara. The latter had declared the territory a sovereign Saharaoui Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Morocco had on the other hand granted autonomy to Saharaoui or Western Sahara as a province within the kingdom based on the fact that it had for over a century contested sovereignty over the territory with Spain long before the formation of the PLF in 1973.
Western Sahara has a land mass of about 250,000 square kilometers, which is about the land mass of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and a quarter the size of Nigeria. The sparse population of about 500,000 people live mainly in Al Fayoun , the capital and other coastal settlements along the Atlantic Coast. The coastal waters teem with marine resources (fruits de la mer) proven deposits of phosphate in the hinterland and most likely oil deposits in the desert. The rest of the country is desert wilderness inhabited by Berber or Amazigh tribes, who have, for centuries like their ancestors, traversed the Sahara Desert in caravans to distant lands in The Middle East and Africa.
The Maghreb countries along the Mediterranean Sea have had chequered history of occupation and colonization which started with the Roman Empire of antiquity and much later from the 18th century by Italian, French, Spanish and Portugese colonial empires.
France annexed Algeria and placed Morocco under its protectorate. Italy annexed Libya, Spain annexed Western Sahara. The colonization of these territories had consistently been resisted by the indigenous Berber tribes led by Morocco.
The first conflict between Spain and Morocco over Western Sahara was the Tetuan War of 1859-60, followed by the Mellila war of 1893-1894, the Rif war of 1909-1927 and the Ifni war of 1957-58 after which Morocco and Spain signed the treaty of Angra de Citra. Spain retained Western Sahara and Sidi Ifni, while the region of Tarfaya was returned to Morocco.
The persistent pressures on Spain to relinquish control over the Western Sahara continued and it was after Morocco threatened to regain the territory by force of arms, that Spain signed the treaty of Madrid with Morocco and Mauritania and left the territory in 1976.
Morocco immediately took over Western Sahara, an action which technically was within the context of the Angra de Citra treaty of 1958, which withheld Western Sahara from Morocco. Spain had continued to occupy Ceuta and Mellila in North Eastern Morocco.
The coalition forces which confronted Spain during the Ifni war of 1958 included Berber tribes in Western Sahara and other interest groups. The agitations for decolonization thereafter was joined by The Polisario Liberation Front (PLF) which was formed in 1973 by Mustafa Sayed and The Saharaoui National Union Party (SNUP) founded in 1974 by Khalelina Ould Errachid with the objective of ousting Spain out of Western Sahara.
When Spain finally left the territory in 1976, the PLF declared Western Sahara as an independent Saharaoui Arab Democratuc Republic (SADR). SNUP on the other hand aligned with Morocco to govern Western Sahara as an autonomous province of Morocco.
In 2006, as a compromise, the king of Morocco created the Royal Advisory Council for Saharaoui Affairs (CORCAS) to run the administration of Saharaoui as an autonomous province. Khalelina Ould Errachid was appointed to head the council and the father of the late SADR President, Mohammed Abdelazeez was a member.
The presence of these important Saharaoui tribal leaders in CORCAS shows that the PLF did not enjoy critical and total support in Saharaoui. The international community is now faced with two divergent positions on the status of Saharaoui, to go autonomy or be granted independence. The fact that PLF opted for independence after the departure of Spain from the territory in 1976, a few years after the organization was formed in 1973 is a food for thought , whereas the conflicts to free the territory from Spanish occupation started over a century earlier.
The ambitious and separatist tendencies of the PLF and divergent opinions in Saharaoui would eventually lead to fresh conflicts which will destabilize the region with each faction drawing external supports. The example of South Sudan is still on going without an end in sight.
The referendum option which had been suggested is already time bad, too late and complicated to implement because of the influx of people and the mixed population. It will be almost impossible to determine the eligibility of voters 40 years after the departure of Spain. The result of the referendum is likely to be rejected by the party that lost under the pretext that it was rigged.
The situation on the ground is almost cast in iron and the way out is to find the most appropriate solution which will serve the best interest of the Saharaoui people who are pawns in the power game of supremacy between Morocco, PLF and Algeria. The conflict over Saharaoui is in essence a proxy war of supremacy between Morocco and Algeria. The two countries have fought two bloody wars over the territory and the resolution of the unhealthy rivalry between them would be a giant step in the eventual resolution of the larger Saharaoui crisis. This should be done under the auspices of the African Union with emphasis on economic cooperation before the more contentious political issues are broached.
The desire of Algeria to have access to the Atlantic Ocean in its southern borders can easily be achieved through bilateral discussions with Morocco which has access to the Atlantic within its territory and Saharaoui. The de facto situation in Saharaoui territory must be acknowledged and the best option is to work within the context of the letter and spirit of CORCAS’s constitution. The autonomy policy must be credible and transparent with a plan of action which will place emphasis on education, medical services, industrialization and agriculture. The rapid development of Saharaoui with job opportunities will reduce agitations for independence and attract refugees from the camps in Tindouf.
Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was the Director of Trade and Investment in Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Morocco’s leading Attijariwafa Bank has completed acquisition of the Egyptian branch of Barclays, the bank announced in a statement on Thursday.
Attijariwafa Bank has obtained all regulatory requirements to acquire 100 percent of Barclays Egypt capital after an agreement was signed by the two banks in October last year, the statement said.
This strategic operation will enable the bank to reinforce its presence in the Middle East and North Africa region, the statement underlined, adding that it will strengthen cooperation between Egypt and Morocco as well as among the countries where the bank exists.
Attijariwafa Bank operates in more than 20 countries including Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Gabon. Enditem
Morocco’s government has approved 51 investments projects worth 6.7 billion U.S. dollars, the prime minister office said in a statement late on Thursday.
The projects will create 6,477 direct jobs, the statement said following a meeting of the Inter-ministerial Investment Commission under the chairmanship of Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani.
The breakdown of investments by sector shows a strong predominance of the energy sector with 4.3 billion dollars, representing nearly two thirds of the total investments submitted to the committee, which are expected to create some 4,803 jobs.
Tourism and leisure activities hold the second position with nearly 13 percent of the planned investments, while transport sector ranks third with 8 percent of said investments.
As for financing, 90 percent of the investments projects are funded by Moroccan investors, and the rest is by partnership between local and international partners.
An artist’s impression of the Chenanisaurus barbaricus
Scientists have discovered one of the last dinosaurs living in Africa before they became extinct 66 million years ago.
The Chenanisaurus barbaricus is extremely rare and is a smaller African contemporary of the North American T rex.
A rare fragment of a jaw bone was studied by Dr Nick Longrich at the University of Bath after it was found in a phosphate mine at Sidi Chennane in the Oulad Abdoun Basin, Morocco.
Dr Longrich, in collaboration with colleagues in Morocco, France and Spain, identified it as belonging to an abelisaur – which was a two-legged predator like T rex and other tyrannosaurs, but had a shorter, blunter snout and even smaller arms.
The tyrannosaurs dominated in North America and Asia, but the abelisaurs were the top predators at the end of the Cretaceous period in Africa, South America, India and Europe.
Dr Longrich told Sky News: “This find was unusual because it’s a dinosaur from marine rocks – it’s a bit like hunting for fossil whales and finding a fossil lion.
“It’s an incredibly rare find – almost like winning the lottery. But the phosphate mines are so rich, it’s like buying a million lottery tickets, so we actually have a chance to find rare dinosaurs like this one.
“We have virtually no dinosaur fossils from this time period in Morocco – it may even be the first dinosaur named from the end-Cretaceous in Africa.
“It’s also one of the last dinosaurs in Africa before the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.
“It’s an exciting find because it shows just how different the fauna was in the southern hemisphere at this time.”
The newly-discovered dinosaur stood on two legs and had stumpy arms, say scientists.
Dr Longrich said: “Abelisaurs had very short arms. The upper arm bone is short, the lower arm is shorter and they have tiny little hands.”
Scientists say the teeth from the fossil were worn as if from biting into bone, suggesting that, like T rex, Chenanisaurus was a predator.
Dr Longrich added: “The odd thing is it’s a terrestrial animal found in marine rocks. It was possibly drowned and washed out to sea and was floating in the ocean.”
The North Africa Post
The Algerian-backed Polisario has imposed a curfew in the Tindouf camps on May 2 to quell a protest that was supposed to be staged on May 3 by the disenchanted population held in inhumane living conditions in south-western Algeria, Morocco’s le 360.ma news website reported.
Battered by a series of diplomatic setbacks at the African and international levels, the Polisario separatists are resorting to violent measures to silence opponents in the Tindouf camps. The curfew was imposed to avert a protest against the polisario leadership and to vent anger at its propaganda especially after it tried to portray its presence in the Guerguarat as a military gain, a chimera that vanished hours before the adoption last Friday of UN Security Council resolution 2351, which calls for a census of the population held in the camps.
The withdrawal of the Polisario from the Guerguarat came after pressure from the international community on the Polisario to retreat from the buffer strip, which under the 1991 cease fire agreement, should remain a demilitarized area.
The Polisario militiamen, in connivance with the Algerian army, have reinforced the siege on the Tindouf camps to prevent Sahrawis from fleeing. The Algerian army has on multiple occasions fired at any Sahrawi who attempts to leave the camps. Last March, Algerian soldiers fired without warning at a car outside the Tindouf camps, killing Kari Mohamed Ali El Ouali and his friend Ahmed Lebouiya Sahraou.
International rights watchdogs, including Human Rights watch and Amnesty International, have on multiple reports drew attention to the plight of the population held against their will in Tindouf where the Algerian state has relegated the destiny of thousands of Sahraouis to the mercy of a separatist militias that trades in their suffering.
From humanitarian aid embezzlement by the Polisario officials to slavery and forced disappearances in the Tinfoud camps, Algeria has abdicated its responsibilities and forsaken a civilian population to the mercy of a separatist militia.
UN Security Council resolution 2351 has once more reiterated the call on Algeria to uphold its responsibility to allow a census of the population held in the camps.
Algeria’s obstinacy to allow a head-count of the population of the Polisario-run camps prompted the EU to reduce aid sent to these camps in a bid to curb humanitarian aid diversion.
The decision was taken following a report by the EU anti-fraud office (OLAF) denouncing the embezzlement of humanitarian aid by the Polisario leadership and Algerian officials. Therefore, the European Commission decided to cut aid commensurately with the estimated number of 90,000 people instead of the inflated 165,000 people put forward by the Polisario and Algeria in an attempt to sell the idea of the existence of a “Sahraoui People” with a “republic” in exile.
Carrying out a head-count of the population held in Tindouf will enable international aid agencies to assess the needs of the population and will also pave the way for the camps dwellers to obtain the refugee status, which will grant them the right to return to their homeland Morocco or at least the right to freely choose their country of asylum. Such options that Algeria and the Polisario dread the most as they continue to trade in the suffering of Sahraouis living in abject conditions.
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North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.
by Lawrence White
* Barclays bank plc completes sale of its retail and corporate banking business in Egypt to Attijariwafa Bank S.A.
* Sale of Attijariwafa bank increases Barclays common equity tier 1 (cet1) ratio by around 10 basis points Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage:
By Patrick Markey and Samia Errazzouki
The United Nations Security Council unanimously backed attempts to restart talks between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement over the Western Sahara conflict, and extended its peacekeeping mission there for another year.
The resolution came after the U.N. mission confirmed the Polisario had withdrawn troops from the Guerguerat area of the territory, a vast swath of desert bordering the Atlantic Ocean that has been contested since 1975.
They had faced off in Guerguerat since 2016 with Morocco, which pulled its forces back earlier this year.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month called for Morocco and the Polisario Front, which fought a war over the region until a 1991 ceasefire, to enter new negotiations that would include proposals from both sides.
“This action should improve the prospects of creating an environment that will facilitate early implementation of Mr. Guterres’s determination to relaunch the negotiating process,” the U.N. spokesman said in a statement noting Morocco’s early pullback and confirming Polisario’s withdrawal.
Morocco claimed Western Sahara after colonial Spain left, but Polisario fought a guerrilla war for independence for the Sahrawi people there until the U.N.-backed ceasefire.
U.N. talks have long failed to broker an agreement on how to decide on self-determination. Morocco wants an autonomy plan under Moroccan sovereignty. But Polisario wants a U.N.-backed referendum including on the question of independence.
The U.N. resolution on Friday extended the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MINURSO, until April 30, 2018 and called on the parties to resume a fifth round of talks.
Against a backdrop of decades of past political failures and mistrust, the resolution noted Morocco’s 2007 autonomy proposal and welcomed Rabat’s “serious” efforts to progress.
It also emphasised Polisario’s 2007 proposal, which calls for a referendum between independence, integration with Morocco and self-governance.
Past attempts to broker a deal have been fallen apart over details mostly on referendum terms, including who should be allowed to vote.
Morocco’s foreign ministry said in a statement the kingdom was satisfied with the resolution, and hoped for a “real process” toward a solution, which it said should be the autonomy initiative.
Morocco also called for neighbouring Mauritania as well as Algeria, which backs Polisario and maintains tense relations with Rabat, to be involved in negotiations.
“All parties must assume their responsibilities, Algeria must assume its responsibility,” Foreign Minister Nacer Bourita told reporters in Rabat. “Algeria is the missing key.”
That position has in the past been rejected by Polisario which sees the conflict only between itself and Rabat.
Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra on Saturday called the resolution a victory for the Sahrawi cause that put the process “back on track”, according to the APS state news agency.
The dispute also reflect splits in the security council. France backs former colony Morocco, and Polisario’s self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has been supported by some non-permanent council members and South Africa.
Friday’s UN resolution noted the need for more support for Sahrawi refugees who fled the conflict and have since lived in camps in the south of Algeria.
Since the 1991 ceasefire, the region has effectively been split by an earthen wall separating an area controlled by Morocco that it claims as its southern provinces, and territory controlled by the Polisario with a U.N.-mandated buffer zone between them.
U.N. peacekeepers intervened in a standoff last year after Moroccan forces crossed beyond the earthen wall in Guerguerat near the Mauritania border and Polisario responded by dispatching troops to the area.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra and John Stonestreet)
Morocco on Saturday voiced satisfaction at a UN Security Council resolution endorsing a new peace initiative on the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Friday’s vote came as UN military observers confirmed that Polisario Front forces, fighting for a breakaway Western Sahara, had withdrawn from the Guerguerat area near the Mauritanian border.
“This action should improve the prospects of creating an environment … to relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said after the vote.
The Security Council also voted on Friday to renew the mandate of the MINURSO peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara for a year.
“Morocco welcomes the resolution,” foreign minister Nasser Bourita said.
Mr Bourita also voiced satisfaction with the withdrawal of Polisario forces from the Guerguerat area, but said Rabat would continue to “monitor closely” developments.
The Polisario pullback must be “complete, unconditional and permanent”, he said.
Tensions flared last year after the Polisario set up a new military post in Guerguerat – a stone’s throw from Moroccan soldiers – in response to Morocco starting to build a tarmac road in the area.
Morocco pulled out from the area in late February at the request of the UN.
“The Polisario had to leave Guerguerat under pressure from the Security Council and to avoid a staunch condemnation… this comforts Morocco,” Mr Bourita said.
Rabat insists that the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Algeria-based Polisario demands a referendum on self-determination there.
The two sides fought for control of the Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of the territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect.
by Khalid Ibrahim Khaled
With a one-day delay over the initial schedule, the Security Council meeting on the Sahara was finally programmed for this Friday. The Council will vote on a resolution urging the Polisario to withdraw from the Guergarat buffer strip and demanding the resumption of the political process, taking into account the progress made since 2006. The progress resulted essentially from the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco.
This delay is explained by the last-minute pressure exerted by Russia to temper the firm tone of the resolution against the Polisario, which claims the independence of the Western Sahara, in the South of Morocco. Actually, the Security Council’s injunction had put the Algeria-backed Polisario in disarray.
The draft resolution is based on the report presented at the beginning of the month by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. This report is his first contact with the Sahara issue as UN Chief. In its initial wording, the draft resolution, drafted by the US presidency of the Security Council, called for the immediate and total withdrawal of Polisario elements from the Guergarat buffer zone.
The text spoke of “deep concern that elements of the Polisario Front remain in the buffer zone of Guergarat and in particular their obstruction of regular commercial traffic”. The text was all the more alarming for the separatists and their Algerian mentors that it also exacted the census of the Sahrawi populations living in the Polisario-run Tindouf camps in Algeria.
Besides the fact that the resolution authorizes the renewal of Minurso’s mandate for a further year, the content of the resolution is imbued with the new dynamics that the UN Secretary-General seems willing to instill in this four-decade long issue.
The Sahara issue had reached a dead end because of the recklessness of the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the stubbornness of his personal envoy, the American Christopher Ross.
Security Council Extends Mandate Of United Nations Mission for Referendum In Western Sahara, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2351 (2017)
7933rd Meeting (Night)
The Security Council decided this afternoon to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2018.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2351 (2017), the Council called on the parties to the Western Sahara conflict to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, in order to facilitate a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.
By other terms of the text, the 15-member Council called on the parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO, and to take the necessary steps to ensure unhindered movement for United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate. Reaffirming the need to fully respect military agreements reached with MINURSO on the ceasefire and calls for full adherence to those accords, the Council recognized that the recent crisis in the Guerguerat buffer strip raised fundamental questions about the ceasefire and related agreements.
Emphasizing the importance of the parties’ commitment to continuing the preparations for a fifth round of negotiations, the Council called upon them to demonstrate the political will to work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations, and to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions.
The Council encouraged the parties to resume cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to review and, where possible, expand confidence-building measures. It urged Member States to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees were adequately addressed. It also supported an increase in the ratio of medical personnel within the current uniformed authorization, as requested in the Secretary-General’s most recent report to address MINURSO’s severely overstretched medical capacity.
Delivering remarks after the vote were representatives of the United States, Uruguay, Sweden, Senegal, Ethiopia, China, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Bolivia, Japan, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
The meeting began at 6:15 p.m. and at 7:05 p.m.
MICHELE SISON (United States), Council President for April, spoke in her national capacity, emphasizing that peacekeeping missions should support political solutions, said that postponing the vote had been the key to allowing the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to close out the 2016 chapter in the territory. The United States was pleased with the mandate renewal, which helped in returning the Council’s attention where it belonged — supporting a political process to resolve the situation on the ground. Emphasizing that the situation must change, she said the Council must look at the “big picture” in Western Sahara, including the absence of any political process for many years, she said. The resolution demonstrated the importance of the parties working with the United Nations to return to the table. The Mission must be able to hire the right staff in order to be as effective as possible, and to adjust components that were not working, as well as they should. The United States would watch closely to see what happened on the ground, she said.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) noted that the question of Western Sahara predictably came before the Security Council once a year, although the situation rarely created a media sensation. He called for regular information on the functionality of MINURSO, which had been affected by the expulsion of its staff. Since 1963, he recalled, the United Nations had recognized Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory in the process of decolonization. Uruguay supported the proposed renewed negotiating process and encouraged the parties to take steps for the creation of a lasting political solution.
CARL SKAU (Sweden) said the resolution represented a real opportunity to resolve one of the longest-standing issues on the Security Council’s agenda. “We can now turn the page,” he added, emphasizing that the resolution sent a strong signal that the time had come to resume negotiations. It provided strong support to the Secretary-General. “This is really diplomacy for peace in action,” he said, stressing the urgent need to resume the political process, which had been at a standstill for far too long. Sweden looked forward to working with the new Envoy, once appointed. Furthermore, the participation of women would inject a new energy into the political process, he said, adding that the resolution also sent a clear signal that it was critical to respect the ceasefire, and that violations would not be accepted.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said that concerns reiterated in the text demonstrated the Council’s commitment to finding a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. Cooperation between Morocco and the Secretariat had produced progress, he said, expressing hope that cooperation with other parties could be guided by realistic steps. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s intention to relaunch the negotiation process, he noted the independence plan proposed by Morocco, describing it as a serious and credible solution. It should be taken into account as negotiations resumed, he added.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) noted that the Secretary-General appeared committed to relaunching the peace process. However, it was important to restore the functionality of the Mission, the role of which had become increasingly important as the situation developed on the ground. Both parties should be called upon to honour the commitments they had made in previous agreements and refrain from any action that would further undermine peace efforts. The Security Council must understand the full context of the situation on the ground in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable political solution.
ZHANG DIANBIN (China) said the Western Sahara issue was complicated, but it was important to create conditions of stability and to take steps towards a political solution. China had always held a position of objectivity and impartiality on the issue, and would continue to support efforts by the United Nations to find a political solution, he added.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the pooled efforts of the Secretary-General and the Council had produced the desired results in Al-Guergarat, and the page could be turned on the crisis. It was now important to respect the ceasefire in all cases, he emphasized. The Council’s support for resuming the political process was unambiguously expressed in the resolution, as was the important role of neighbouring countries in finding a solution, he said.
PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said today’s forward-looking resolution marked an important step towards a solution to the decades-long conflict. The United Kingdom also welcomed the strong commitment and support for the Secretary-General’s relaunch of the negotiating process with the aim of finding a lasting political solution. It was clear that the issue could only be resolved through progress on the political track, he said.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) expressed hope that recent developments, as well as the resolution could build the required momentum towards rapid resumption of the political process.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said he trusted that the parties would resume a political process leading to a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. Bolivia was committed to continuing efforts to ensure that the people of Western Sahara could pursue their right to self-determination, he said, noting his country’s strong ties with both the people of Morocco and those of Western Sahara, and believed that dialogue was the only legitimate way for the world’s peoples to live in peace.
YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) voiced appreciation for the Secretary-General’s efforts to resolve the Al-Guergarat crisis and to ensure resumption of the political process. Emphasizing his country’s eagerness to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping, he said the Council must assess whether deployments were adequately linked to realities on the ground, and stressed the importance of linking political processes to mandates.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that while he understood that the text did not address all the concerns of some Council members, the document demonstrated the Council’s effort to revive the political process in Western Sahara. Calling on all parties to rise to their shared responsibility, he urged them to refrain from actions that may undermine the ceasefire agreement.
PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said the Council’s unified position must send both parties a clear message of the need to resume direct talks. Antagonism would only be overcome through a political solution, he added, emphasizing that Western Sahara conflict had an adverse impact on security in the Maghreb.
The full text of resolution 2351 (2017) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling and reaffirming all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara,
“Reaffirming its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to implement resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), 2218 (2015), and 2285 (2016),
“Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect,
“Reiterating its call upon the parties and the neighbouring states to cooperate more fully with the United Nations and with each other and to strengthen their involvement to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,
“Recognizing that achieving a political solution to this long-standing dispute and enhanced cooperation between the Member States of the Maghreb Arab Union would contribute to stability and security in the Sahel region,
“Welcoming the efforts of the Secretary-General to keep all peacekeeping operations, including the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), under close review and reiterating the need for the Council to pursue a rigorous, strategic approach to peacekeeping deployments, and effective management of resources,
“Emphasizing the need to regularly evaluate MINURSO’s performance such that the mission retains the skills and flexibility needed to effectively carry out its mandate,
“Further emphasizing that hiring, retention and assignment processes of the United Nations for MINURSO should allow for mission structures to quickly and easily adapt to changing operational environments, and noting the Secretary-General’s intention to reform these processes to make the Organization more nimble,
> “Recognizing the important role played by MINURSO on the ground and the need for it to fully implement its mandate, including its role in supporting the Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution,
“Expressing concern about the violations of existing agreements, and calling on the parties to respect their relevant obligations,
“Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution; also taking note of the Polisario Front proposal presented 10 April 2007 to the Secretary-General,
“Encouraging in this context, the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution including by expanding upon their discussion of each other’s proposals and further encouraging the neighbouring countries to make contributions to the political process,
“Taking note of the four rounds of negotiations held under the auspices of the Secretary-General and recognizing the importance of the parties committing to continue the negotiations process,
“Encouraging the parties to resume cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in implementing the January 2012 updated Plan of Action on Confidence-Building Measures, including programmes focused on linking people who have been divided for more than 40 years due to the conflict and further encouraging the parties to consider additional appropriate confidence-building measures,
“Stressing the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, and encouraging the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights, bearing in mind their relevant obligations under international law,
“Encouraging the parties to continue in their respective efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps, including the freedoms of expression and association,
“Welcoming in this regard, the recent steps and initiatives taken by Morocco, and the role played by the National Council on Human Rights Commissions operating in Dakhla and Laayoune, and Morocco’s interaction with Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council,
“Commending the technical visit of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Western Sahara in April 2015, and to the Tindouf refugee camps in July-August 2015, and strongly encouraging enhancing cooperation with OHCHR, including through facilitating further visits to the region,
“Noting with deep concern the continued hardships faced by Sahrawi refugees and their dependency on external humanitarian assistance, and further noting insufficient funding for those living in Tindouf refugee camps and the risk of potential reductions in food assistance,
“Reiterating its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and emphasizing efforts be made in this regard,
“Stressing the importance of a commitment by the parties to continue the process of negotiations through the United Nations-sponsored talks and encouraging the meaningful participation of women in these,
“Recognizing that the consolidation of the status quo is not acceptable, and noting further that progress in the negotiations is essential in order to improve the quality of life of the people of Western Sahara in all its aspects,
“Expressing gratitude for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Ambassador Christopher Ross, throughout his tenure, and affirming its continued full support for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara in facilitating negotiations between the parties, and calling on the parties and neighbouring States to cooperate fully with the Personal Envoy,
“Affirming full support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc,
“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 10 April 2017 (document S/2017/307),
“1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2018;
“2. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire and calls on the parties to adhere fully to those agreements;
“3. Recognizes that the recent crisis in the buffer strip in Guerguerat raises fundamental questions related to the ceasefire and related agreements and encourages the Secretary-General to explore ways that such questions can be resolved;
“4. Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO, including its free interaction with all interlocutors, and to take the necessary steps to ensure the security of, as well as unhindered movement and immediate access for the United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate, in conformity with existing agreements;
“5. Emphasizes the importance of the parties’ commitment to continue the process of preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, and recalls its endorsement of the recommendation in the report of 14 April 2008 (S/2008/251) that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to achieve progress in negotiations, and encourages the neighbouring countries to make important contributions to this process;
“6. Calls upon the parties to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), and 2218 (2015), and the success of negotiations;
“7. Affirms its full support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy towards a solution to the question of Western Sahara in this context to relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit leading to the resumption of a political process with the aim of reaching a mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations;
“8. Calls upon the parties to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect;
“9. Invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to these talks;
“10. Requests the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council on a regular basis, and at least twice a year, on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices, on the implementation of this resolution, challenges to MINURSO’s operations and steps taken to address them, expresses its intention to meet to receive and discuss his briefings and in this regard, and further requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period;
“11. Further requests the Secretary-General to update the Security Council within six months of the appointment of the new Personal Envoy on: (i) ways in which the Personal Envoy, working with the parties, is progressing towards a mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and present a clear path forward; (ii) how MINURSO’s performance measures are being developed and implemented; (iii) how structures and staffing can be reorganized to achieve mission goals efficiently; and (iv) how new technologies are being considered to reduce risk, improve force protection and better implement the mandate of MINURSO;
“12. Encourages the parties to resume cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to review, and where possible, expand confidence-building measures;
“13. Urges Member States to provide new and additional voluntary contributions to fund food programmes to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees are adequately addressed and avoid reductions in food rations;
“14. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including predeployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;
“15. Supports an increase in the ratio of medical personnel within the current uniformed authorization as requested in the most recent report of the Secretary-General to address the severely overstretched medical capacity of MINURSO;
“16. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”