UN, Western Sahara Session Goes Late But Words Not Changed, Realism
Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
April 30 -- Western Sahara was debated behind closed doors in the
Council into the night on April 30, the last day of South Africa's
of the Council. At 10:29 p.m., the so-called MINURSO resolution was put
on the agenda at a televised meeting for a vote, with no changes to the
language proposed two days previous. Before the formal vote, Costa Rica
and others explained their upcoming rubber-stamp votes. At 10:45, the
resolution was unanimously approved.
Following the controversy about Ban Ki-moon's envoy Peter
van Walsum issuing a report calling on those in Western Sahara to be
"realistic" and not expect a referendum with independence as an
option, the Western Saraha resolution got bogged down in a series of
mostly focusing on the 25-word Operative Paragraph 2, which as drafted
indicated that the Council "endorses the report's recommendation that
realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to
momentum of the process of the negotiations."
Polisario Front, South Africa,
Panama and Costa Rica said they were opposed to the reference to
"realism," wanting it removed or made to apply to both parties. Also
on the table was changing that the Council "endorses" the report to
merely "takes note." Costa Rica wanted to include "within the framework
of international law," and to "call upon the parities to engage in
continuous ... dialogue with the UNHCHR" on human rights. But these
amendments were withdrawn.
Polisario Front, and South
Africa (and Panama and Costa Rica) are pushing to get in the resolution
reference to human rights, which France, and reportedly the US and UK,
The Polisario representatives said that the UK and US had, in closed
consultation, offered to allow reference to human rights, and the
opposed it. But France claimed to have support from the UK, US and
the "Group of Friends." South Africa points out that this Group does
not include any African or Arab countries. And so it goes.
Van Walsum and Ban - of one mind on Western Sahara?
3 p.m. press conference, Inner
City Press asked South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo why, if South
opposed the Group of Friends' draft, he wouldn't vote against it.
on the ground don't want us to, Kumalo said. And behind the stakeout's
machine, the Polisario's representative said the draft "preserves the
essentials," while shamefully leaving out human rights.
As the clock moved
past ten p.m.,
and journalists and UN experts on South Sudan drifted away, Ambassador
Kumalo emerged. He told the press he was not hopeful of changes being
the text. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia returned, to much
back-slapping. France's Jean-Maurice Ripert apologized
Kumalo for skipping his end of presidency lunch. He mused about a
dinner he was
missing. "Anything else, I could leave," he said. "But on
Western Sahara, if I leave, I'm dead."
10:29, the Council moved toward approving the text exactly as it went
into blue two days before. Statements began, with
Costa Rica asking why international law was ignored by the resolution,
and why the drafers ignored and took no changes from the non-permanent
members. Permanent member Russia
pointed out that it opposed the amendments
because it had no agreement from its capital, that "others" spoke
inside the consultations. South
Africa's Kumalo echoed Costa Rica, stating that the Group of Friends
refused to take any suggestions or changes.
Kumalo asked, are we going to "tell the people of
Palestine that they should be realistic? Or to the people of Serbia to
accept Kosovo as a reality because of what has happened?" The first of
these analogies got Kumalo into hot water earlier in the day. But he
repeated it at night, planning to head the next day to Nevada.
Kumalo said he found it "curious" that some members speak of
human rights in countries not on the Council's agenda, like Myanmar and
Zimbabwe, but won't include the phrase with regard to Western Sahara.
Then he said, my delegation will vote in favor, with the hope that the
people of Western Sahara will one day retain their right to
self-determination." And at 10:45, the vote was unanimous, the
resolution was approved.
Afterwards, the U.S.'s Alejandro Wolff issued many caveats.
Burkina Faso issued some. France's Ripert half-explained his country's
position. And so it goes at the UN.
Footnote: as dusk turned to night
at the Security Council, a
theory was advanced that while the U.S., for example, once tried to
Western Sahara issue, now under Elliot Abrams it has decided that
key to its "war on terror," and therefore "forget human
* * *
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