MINURSO chief briefs Security Council on situation in the Sahara

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Sahara and head of MINURSO, Colin Stewart, visited UN headquarters in New York earlier this week, where he was due to brief on Tuesday the 15 members of the Security Council on the latest developments of the Sahara issue and in the buffer zone, under the exclusive control of MINURSO.

Violations by the Polisario of the ceasefire agreement in the buffer zone, the MINURSO’s current mandate, which ends at the end of October, and the possible suspension by the United States of its contribution to this mission, are the main topics to be addressed by the Canadian Colin Stewart in his “technical” briefing before the Security Council.

This briefing comes about twenty days before the vote on the extension of the MINURSO mandate. In a preliminary report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last Wednesday (Oct.3) called on the Security Council to extend the MINURSO mandate by one year instead of six months after the concerned parties agreed to participate in the talks, scheduled to be held in Geneva, under the aegis of the UN Secretary General’s personal envoy for the Sahara, Horst Köhler, early December.

The Security Council had urged in Resolution 2414 of last April all parties, including Algeria and Mauritania, as parties directly concerned by the Sahara issue, to contribute to the new negotiation process initiated by the German diplomat Horst Köhler.

In his preliminary report, the UN Chief deplored the refusal of the Polisario leadership to receive the head of the MINURSO Colin Stewart and other civilian and military officials of the mission in Rabouni, in southwestern Algeria. The Polisario leaders demand instead that these meetings be held at Bir Lahlou or Tifariti that the Polisario considers as “liberated territories” while in reality they are located in the buffer zone under the exclusive control of the MINURSO.

Guterres’ report on the Sahara submitted to the Security Council last Wednesday should serve as a baseline for the next draft resolution, whose penholder is the United States, and which will be put to the vote on October 29.

The noose is thus tightening around Polisario leaders, who seek, at the instigation of the Algerian civil and military apparatus, to put the UN and its mission in the Sahara before the fait accompli in Bir Lahlou and Tifariti.

Actually, the separatist front has tried to transfer to these localities its administrative and military structures and a part of the population of the Tindouf camps, become a heavy burden for the Algerian regime, but the firm response of both Morocco and the UN frustrated their attempts.

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