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On Western Sahara, US Position on Human Rights & Trip Unclear, South Africa Questions AU-Less Group of Friends

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 19 -- How can the Western Sahara “Group of Friends” set up by the UN Security Council not include any African country? Inner City Press put this question to South African Permanent Representative Baso Sangqu on Tuesday after Council consultations on the draft resolution Inner City Press obtained and published before the meeting (click here).

  Ambassador Sangqu said, that's a good question. Inner City Press asked if it is his understanding that members of the Group of Friends, once the Group issues its draft resolution, are not supposed to negotiate to make it any stronger. That question, Sangqu did not answer.

  Inner City Press has learned that in the Group of Friends meeting on April 18, France wanted to limit human rights to Morocco allowing in UN Special Rapporteurs. South Africa and others want to see an ongoing human rights monitoring mechanism in the UN peacekeeping mission MINURSO.

  The interim compromise, pushed by the UK, is to invite High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay to visit Western Sahara and make a recommendation. That alternative is in the draft. The draft is new in that way: the Group of Friends did not reach a total agreement.

  While the US has not commented publicly despite requests, Inner City Press is told that the US is not a meaningful supporter of a human rights monitoring mechanism in MINURSO. The US “holds the pen” on the issue, however, and Ambassador Susan Rice attended and presided over the April 18 meeting.

  Afterward Rice declined comment on the place of human rights in the draft and MINURSO mission.

Ban, Obama, Rice, Le Roy: 2 have opposed rights in WS, 2 still UNclear

  But as South African Ambassador Sangqu, described by the New York Times as having been “frog marched” (as a South African newspaper put it) to the Council to vote in favor of Libya no fly zone resolution 1973, put it, how can a country call for human rights in Libya and not Western Sahara? How indeed.

  There are, sources tell Inner City Press, discussions of sending a mini-visit of UN Security Council Ambassadors on a trip to Western Sahara. The last such trip was in 1995. The US has blocked the proposed Council trip to the Middle East. What is the US position on this proposal? Watch this site.

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At UN on Western Sahara, After Group of Friends Wrangling by France and Morocco, Draft Resolution Emerges

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 19, updated -- On Western Sahara, after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report was delayed for nine days by a leak and Inner City Press' publication of a draft on which Morocco and France were lobbying Mr. Ban, now the draft resolution on the MINURSO mission has emerged, similarly the subject of backroom horsetrading.

Inner City Press on the night of April 18 obtained the draft resolution to be discussed by the Security Council on April 19 in closed door consultations, and is putting it online here as a public service.

In the lead of the circulation of this draft, France was objecting to including human rights in the resolution. A meeting at the Ambassadorial level of the “Group of Friends” was called for five pm on April 18.

UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who had not been in the Security Council for its discussions earlier in the afternoon on Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sri Lanka, rushed into the Council at 5. When he emerged an hour and a half later, Inner City Press asked him about the process.

A text will be circulated tonight, he said.

Moments later, after US Ambassador Susan Rice had a long and seemingly amiable talk in the hall outside the Council with her Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin, Inner City Press asked if human right were in the draft. She was jovial but did not answer the question.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud emerged with his Moroccan counterpart, both silent, at least to Inner City Press.

Update of 10:20 am -- Inner City Press asked South Africa's Permanent Representative what his country thinks of the draft resolution. It's not good enough, he said.

Inner City Press put the same question to Morocco's Permanent Representative, who shrugged but didn't comment.

Update of 11:26 am -- various Security Council observers highlight that this Group of Friends draft leaves alternatives, which we will be analyzing in next dispatches.

   Inner City Press obtained this draft (the attached PDF has the full formating, click here) --

Draft Resolution

The Security Council,

PP1 Recalling and reaffirming all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara,

PP2 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), and 1920 (2010),

PP3 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,

PP4 Reiterating its call upon the parties and States of the region 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,

PP4bis Welcoming the efforts of the Secretary-General to keep all peacekeeping operations, including MINURSO, under close review and reiterating the need for the Council to pursue a rigorous, strategic approach to peacekeeping deployments,

PP4ter Expressing serious concern about the increase in violations of existing agreements and calling on the parties to respect their relevant obligations,

PP5 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,

PP6 Inviting in this context the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution including by expanding upon their discussion of each other’s proposals,

PP7 Taking note of the four rounds of negotiations held under the auspices of the Secretary-General, and the two continued rounds of informal talks in Manhasset (United States), and Mellieha (Malta), and welcoming the progress made by the parties to enter into direct negotiations,

PP7bis Welcoming the parties’ agreement to explore innovative negotiating approaches and discrete subjects,

PP8alt 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,

PP8alt bis Welcoming the establishment of a National Council on Human Rights in Morocco and its proposed component in Western Sahara, and the commitment of Morocco to ensure unqualified and unimpeded access to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council,

PP8 alt ter Also welcoming the implementation of the enhanced refugee protection program developed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in coordination with the Polisario Front, which will include human rights training and awareness initiatives,

PP 8 alt quater Requesting UNHCR to maintain its consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps,

PP9 Welcoming the agreement of the parties expressed in the Communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara of 18 March 2008 and looking forward to the inauguration of family visits by land and the continuation of the existing programme by air, and encouraging the parties to cooperate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in implementing their agreement,

PP10 Welcoming the commitment of the parties to continue the process of negotiations through the United Nations-sponsored talks,

PP11 Recognizing that the consolidation of the status quo is not acceptable in the long term, 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,

PP12 Affirming support for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara Ambassador Christopher Ross, and his work in facilitating negotiations between the parties also welcoming his ongoing consultations with the parties and neighboring states,

PP13 Affirming support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO Hany Abdel-aziz,

Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of April 2011 (S/2011/249),

1. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with regard to the ceasefire and calls on the parties to adhere fully to those agreements;

1bis. Calls on all parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO and to ensure the security of as well as unhindered and immediate access for the United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate, in conformity with existing agreements;

2. Welcomes the parties’ commitment to continue the process of holding small, informal talks in 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;

3. Calls upon the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), and 1920 (2010) and the success of negotiations, inter alia, by devoting attention to the ideas in paragraph 120 of the Secretary General’s report (S/2011/249);

3bis. Affirms its strong support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy towards a solution to the question of Western Sahara in this context and welcomes the intensified pace of meetings and contacts;

4. Calls upon the parties to continue 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;

5. Invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to these talks;

6. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Security Council informed on a regular basis, and at least twice a year, on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices and express its intention to meet to receive and discuss his report;

7. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period;

7bis. Welcomes the commitment of the parties and the neighbouring states to hold periodic meetings with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to review and, where possible, expand confidence-building measures;

8. Urges Member States to provide voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures that allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family visits, as well as for other confidence-building measures that may be agreed upon between parties;

8bis Requests the Secretary General in his next report to examine the existing challenges to MINURSO’s operations, reflecting on the situation on the ground;

9. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2012;

10. 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 pre-deployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;

11. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

We will have further analysis of it tomorrow. Watch this site.

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On Western Sahara, Draft Reports Published as UN Refuses to Take Morocco Q

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 6 -- For days, senior UN officials have been telling Inner City Press about aggressive lobbying by Morocco about the specifics of the forthcoming UN report on Western Sahara, a leaked copy of which Morocco was given from within the UN Secretariat.

  Inner City Press on April 4 wrote about the topic -- having also obtained a copy from diplomatic sources -- and on April 6 repeatedly told Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky that it wanted to ask a Western Sahara question at that day's noon briefing.

  “I have a question on Western Sahara,” Inner City Press said, ceding first to another journalist on Haiti. But Nesirky then declared without explanation he would take only one more question, on another topic. Inner City Press repeated, “I have a question on Western Sahara.” But Nesikry stood up, declaring his briefing over. Nor does he respond to or even acknowledge the majority of e-mailed Press questions.

  Diplomatic sources tell Inner City Press that Ban's final, post-lobbying report is due out. And so, Inner City Press now published a scanned version of the draft to obtained, both with Paragraph 119 as urged by Morocco and a proposal by the Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights, which proposes a human rights mechanism for the UN's MINURSO mission.

  Click here and here.

  Even those close to Ban say that the level of pressure -- which Ban has apparently given into -- was extreme. At the same time, Ban is closely linked with France in military action in Cote d'Ivoire.

  A day after French foreign minister Alain Juppe said that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agrees that Laurent Gbagbo must sign a letter ceding power to Alassane Ouattara, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if that is, in fact, Ban's position.

I don't speak for the French Foreign Minister,” Nesirky said.

But you do speak for the Secretary General,” Inner City Press asked. Is it Ban's position or not?

Nesirky would not answer, saying he would not characterize the Secretary General's communications with Juppe. Then he refused repeated requests that he answer a question about Western Sahara.

Thus does the UN thumbs its nose at transparency and lose credibility, by being used by France and Morocco, not only in Cote d'Ivoire but Western Sahara too. Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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