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Western Sahara

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UN Documents

Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation Concerning Western Sahara (February 19, 2002)

The report summarizes the recent diplomatic efforts to end the longstanding conflict. It informs about Polisario's decision to end the year-old travel limitations on UN personnel. The report also asks the Security Council to pressure Polisario to release the 1362 prisoners of war it has held for almost 20 years.

Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation Concerning Western Sahara (October 25, 2000)



UN West Sahara Mission Extended Despite US Doubts (October 28, 2005)

The Security Council has extended its peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara. The mission hopes to solve the three-decade impasse between the Moroccan Government and the pro-independence Polisario Front on the question of governance in Western Sahara. The six-month extension was granted even though the UN special envoy to Western Sahara declared the two parties "quasi-irreconcilable." (Reuters)

Outside View: West Sahara Conflict Lingers (August 24, 2005)

This editorial, written by an independent contributor in the conservative United Press International, cautions against overwhelming praise for the release of Moroccan prisoners in Western Sahara. The author, a former UN political officer and peacekeeping spokesman, acknowledges that few would understand the decades old conflict "over a piece of the Sahara desert that does not boast any really significant natural resources." But he nevertheless urges the US and international players to help Morocco and the Polisario rebels reach a peace agreement, as sustained peace could help counterterrorism measures in the region.

Prisoner Release Gives Hope for W. Sahara Peace (August 22, 2005)

Though the conflict between Morocco and the Saharawi people over Western Sahara has dragged on for decades, the release of 404 Moroccan prisoners by liberation movement Polisario Front could indicate a small step towards reconciliation. One UN peacekeeping official warns that the Polisario and Moroccans "have no common ground." But pro-independence advocates hope the release of prisoners will lead Morocco to take steps towards an internationally-supported formal referendum on Saharawi self-determination. (Christian Science Monitor)

Security Council Extends UN Mission in Western Sahara through October (April 28, 2005)

The Security Council has extended its peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, underlining its commitment to forge a lasting peace between pro-independence group POLISARIO and the country's Moroccan occupiers. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan advised against a troop reduction, stressing the importance of monitoring the ceasefire effectively. Tens of thousands of people fled Western Sahara as a result of the struggle for self-determination. (UN News)


Diplomatic Desert (September 27, 2004)

South Africa has formally recognized the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic after its patience for a referendum on who should rule Western Sahara ran out earlier in September. Some 76 countries have recognized the Republic, but Morocco fears South Africa's weight will trigger more international pressure to grant the region independence. (Guardian)


Stubborn Stalemate in Western Sahara (June 26, 2004)

This MERIP report analyzes the causes of stalemate in the Western Saharan dispute, highlighting the role that the United States and France play in prolonging the conflict. The two Western powers shield the Moroccan government from any form of UN-imposed penalty, allowing Morocco to delay a plebiscite long-awaited by many Western Saharans.


Western Sahara: The Wall of Shame (June 9, 2004)

This article argues that the Moroccan government is not only exploiting the natural resources of Western Sahara, but is also plundering the "most important wealth that the Western Saharawis have, namely tolerance, democracy and equality." The author urges the international community to promote democracy in the country, preventing it from becoming another "East Timor." (Green Left Weekly)


UN Extends Mandate of Peacekeeping Mission in Western Sahara (April 29, 2004)

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara. Despite objections by Morocco, the Council reaffirmed its support for the UN- proposed peace plan, allowing Western Saharan people to determine the future of the disputed territory in a referendum. (China View)


Annan Urges UN Not to Desert Peace Plan (April 27,2004)

Expressing optimism about the peace plan in Western Sahara, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council to extend the UN peacekeeping mandate in the country, giving the conflicting parties more time to work with each other. (Associated Press)


Western Sahara: Polisario Releases Another 100 Moroccan Prisoners (February 26, 2004)

The Western Sahara liberation movement Polisario Front released 100 Moroccan prisoners of war. While welcoming this positive move, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged the nationalist group to release more prisoners based on humanitarian grounds, not for political gains. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)



Source: UN Photo/MINURSO

"Africa's Last Colony" (October 21, 2003)

In 1991, the Security Council authorized a Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. MINURSO still exists, but continuing antagonism between Polisario and Morocco indefinitely extends the deadline of the referendum. (BBC)


Self Determination Struggle in the Western Sahara Continues to Challenge the UN (September 2003)

This article from Foreign Policy in Focus tracks the history of Security Council involvement in the struggle between the Sahrawi people and Morocco, their colonial ruler. It also highlights the problems standing in the way of Sahrawi independence.


Behind the Baker Plan for Western Sahara (August 1, 2003)

This article from the Middle East Report Online details the ongoing dispute concerning the governance of Western Sahara. The newest plan proposed by former US Secretary of State James Baker calls for a provisional period of Moroccan rule and a referendum about future governance.


Two Months Extension for Minurso (March 26, 2003)

The UN mission in Western Sahara will continue for two months to give more time to consider an agreement worked out by UN Secretary General's special envoy James Baker. The UN has failed to organize a referendum and to propose a plan to satisfy both parties so far. (Allafrica)

Western Sahara's Future (March 4, 2003)

The discovery of oil in Western Sahara could mean the difference between independence and annexation, says BBC. As US, French and Australian oil companies begin to report their oil findings in the country, the chances of Western Sahara's independence seem increasingly remote.


Polisario Releases Moroccan Prisoners of War (February 11, 2003)

The Western Sahara liberation movement Polisario has released 1100 Moroccan prisoners in the last 25 years. However, both Polisario and Morocco still retain prisoners, and the UN claims both parties are violating the Geneva Convention. (Afrol)


UN Sahara Peace Plan Rejected (January 20, 2003)

UN special envoy James Baker's proposal to end the conflict in the Western Sahara offers nothing new. His plan still denies the Saharawi people's rights of self-determination and allows Morocco's illegal occupation to continue. (BBC)


Letter to The Honorable James Baker (January 10, 2003)

Rumors in the press indicate that James Baker's neutrality is compromised by oil interests. The US-Western Sahara Foundation asks him to support a free, fair, and transparent referendum, or request Morocco to withdraw from its illegal occupation. (Sahara-Update)

Big Oil and James Baker Target the Western Sahara (January 9, 2003)

In tandem with important oil discoveries in West Sahara, the US has taken steps to legitimize Morocco's illegal occupation of the African country, in violation of international law and UN resolutions. Furthermore, by declaring the Polisario Front a terrorist organization, the Bush administration will pave the way for US oil interests. (allAfrica)



King Says UN Referendum on Western Sahara Is "Null" (November 6, 2002)

Moroccan King Mohammed VI considers the UN referendum as null "because it is inapplicable." Efforts to identify voters have been made in vain, as Morocco says some 200,000 people are eligible, while the Polisario states only 70,000 people are true natives of the territory. (Associated Press)

UN's Legitimacy at Stake in Western Sahara, Must Implement Referendum ASAP (October 31, 2002)

The UN's promised referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people is long overdue. Six years of effort and $500 million had been expended so far to identify eligible voters, but the UN has simply stopped the process. (Sahara-update)

UN Security Council Faces Tough Choices On Western Sahara (June 21, 2002)

The Secretary General has outlined to the Security Council four possible options for peace in Western Sahara. The proposed options include: conducting a referendum, becoming autonomous for five years before the referendum, partition, and a withdrawal of the UN mission. (Panafrican News Agency )

Western Sahara: Numbered Days (June 13, 2002)

The US and France grow impatient to legitimize Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara through a Security Council resolution, thus securing US and French oil industry interests in Morocco. An Australian oil company remains the Saharawis' only ally and leverage. (The Economist)

Security Council Extends Mandate of Its Mission (May 1, 2002)

The Security Council extends the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until July 31, 2002. In the meantime, the Council will review Secretary General Kofi Annan's proposals to break the deadlock over the territory's future. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)

War Drums Beat Again for Polisario Front Guerrillas (May 1, 2002)

The US backs plans to give Morocco sovereignty over Western Sahara, increasing "the threat of renewed war between the Polisario Front and Morocco," writes the Independent. Saharan activists warn of a "return to guerilla war" if the UN withdraws and the US plan is imposed without a referendum.

UN Struggles to Find Peace in Forgotten Desert Fight (May 1, 2002)

The UN extends the stay of the UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara without choosing a solution to the deadlock. The problem lies in determining the eligibility of voters who may participate in a referendum to determine the political future of Western Sahara. (The Daily Telegraph)

Annan Calls for Security Council Decision (April 26, 2002)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urges the Security Council to decide on the future of UN involvement in the peace process in Western Sahara, as the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) draws to an end. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Polisario Front Asks UN To Go Ahead With W. Sahara Referendum (March 26, 2002)

The Polisario Front, disputing the control of the Western Sahara with Morocco, urges the Security Council to hold a referendum on the future of the territory.(Agence France Presse)

Letting Western Sahara Settle Its Future (March 25, 2002)

The Commission on Human Rights provides a comprehensive analysis on the question of Western Sahara addressing the role of the UN and the territory's right to self-determination. (Human Rights Documentation Center)

Sahrawi Independence Would be "Viable" (March 2, 2002)

A new report recommends the expansion of UN involvement to help move the 11-year stalemate towards a final resolution. The report also recognizes the viability and desirability of an independent Sahrawi state, reversing previous assessments by the Secretary-General's office. (Afrol News)

Annan Pessimistic About Western Sahara Settlement (February 20, 2002)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan suggests the UN may abandon efforts to help solve the dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front over the future of Western Sahara. (Agence France Press)

Norwegian Human Rights Network Demands Referendum, Security and Aid for Sahrawis (February 7, 2002)

An Norwegian NGO-Forum provides recommendations for Norway's presidency of the Security Council in March 2002 on Western Sahara. The group argues that the lack of support for a referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people undermines the credibility of the UN. (Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara)

UN Considers Moroccan Oil Exploitation Off Sahara Illegal (February 5, 2002)

The UN Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) ruled that Moroccan efforts to explore oil resources off the coast of Western Sahara violate international law. Morocco does not have sovereignty over the territory. (Afrol News)

UN to Rule on Moroccan Oil Deal in Western Sahara (January 24, 2002)

UN experts are looking into the legality of Moroccan oil exploration licenses off the disputed coast of Western Sahara which produced heavy protests from the nationalist Polisario front in October 2001. According to a US Geological Survey, estimated oil and gas resources off the Saharan coast are substantial. (Afrol News)

Polisario to Release Moroccan POWs (January 4, 2002)

Polisario, the pro-independence movement in Western Sahara, announced its intention to release 115 Morroccan POWs. A ceasefire has been in place since 1991, but a referendum to determine the future of the region has never been held and the status of the territory remains unresolved. (BBC News)



Polisario's Sinking Hopes (December 6, 2001)

French and US oil prospecting deals off the Western Sahara coast will back the Moroccan government in diminishing the hopes for Sahrawi independence. James Baker, a prominent oilman and Personal Envoy of the Secretary General to Western Sahara, has raised questions about the long-standing UN commitment to allow Western Sahara people a referendum. (The Economist)

Former Nobel Laureates Appeal to Annan (December 20, 2001)

Six former Nobel Laureates appealed to Kofi Annann to implement a stalled plan for a referendum on Western Sahara's independence. The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) operated in the region since 1991, but has been unable to implement the referendum due to continuing disputes between the Morroccan government and the independence movement. (UN Integrated Regional Information Network)

Security Council Urges Refrain By Parties (November 27, 2001)

The Security Council called on parties in the Western Sahara conflict to refrain from any action which could aggravate the situation. This follows the recent recommendation by Secretary General Kofi Annan to extend the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until January 31, 2002. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)

UN: Western Sahara Settlement: Fourth Committee's Debate Continues (October 11, 2001)

Statements from the UN Fourth Committee debate addressing the issue of Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory. (Association de soutien í  un Référendum libre et régulier au Sahara Occidental )

Algeria calls for implementation of UN settlement plan in Western Sahara (October 9, 2001)

Despite the obstacles, Algeria has called for the implementation of the peace plan for a "just and final settlement of the Western Saharan issue." (BBC Monitoring)

UN Betrayal of Western Sahara Appears Imminent (July 2, 2001)

For 25 years, Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara and has ignored Security Council resolutions demanding that Morocco withdraw. Fault lies primarily with the US and France who blocked the UN from imposing sanctions against Morocco. (Foreign Policy In Focus)


Former US Secretary of State Baker Presses for Deal on Western Sahara (March 14, 2001)

Despite its illegal occupation in Western Sahara, Morocco is a key ally of western countries. This article shows the Western countries' action in the rich mineral and oil area of Western Sahara. For example, Britain undertook a £3.5 million contract to supply parts for 30 105mm cannons for the Moroccan regime. (World Socialist Web Site)



Morocco Should Devolve Authority to Western Sahara: Annan (October 26, 2000)

Kofi Annan contends that negotiations for a political solution will remain stalled until Morocco agrees to some devolution. Until that happens, the referendum process will continue, with thousands of appeals from people excluded from voting yet to be heard. (Agence France Presse)

No Breakthrough for Western Sahara (September 28, 2000)

Talks between Morocco and Polisario again fail to make progress, and Morocco begins to consider alternatives to a referendum. (BBC World Service)

Annan: UN-Sponsored Talks on Western Sahara Fail (July13, 2000)

With the "winner-take-all" approach by both Morocco and Western Sahara, the fresh peace negotiations disappointingly "moved things backwards." (Reuters)

Search for Western Sahara Alternative (June 28, 2000)

As the referendum over Western Sahara's independence from Morocco faces a dead end, the UN Security Council has hinted at an alternative plan of granting limited autonomy. Pro-Western Sahara guerillas however, reject this plan and are preparing for a possible return to war. (BBC)

Two-Month Extension of UN Mission in Western Sahara Adds to Referendum Doubts (May 31, 2000)

As Morocco and the Polisario Front face an impasse and the referendum for independence is further delayed, some members in the UN Security Council expressed dismay that the referendum of the Settlement Plan may never be held. Link to UN Security Council Resolution Press Release SC/6869 (Agence France Presse)

Annan Says Western Sahara Independence Vote May Never Be Held (February 22, 2000)

Security Council may extend MINURSO's mandate to allow for the conduct of presidential elections and other reforms. ( UN Wire )

UN Gives Morocco Just 11 More Days (February 1, 1999)

Peacekeepers may withdraw if there is no progress towards the referendum on independence for the Western Sahara.(The Guardian News Service )



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