Witness of Madeleine Albright, US Representative to the UN, speaking about Western Sahara on 02.05.96: "I think that clearly this is a issue of major concern to us and one that we share with you. It is stale mated because of the difficulty of moving this identification process forward. And the just general impracticability. I think that we're concerned about is how to move the process forward without totally removing all United Nation's presence there. And that having even a small number of military observers there, UN, that it is a preventative action. We do however, I think, need to reconsider more active, we internationally, a more active diplomacy in this area. Because the stale mate is something that is debilitating to the region, in a region which is of major concern to us with country, Morocco, that is a very good friend of the United States. So this is a subject that we talk about in the Security Council fairly frequently. We will return to it, as I said, in the next couple of weeks. So, I think we have to be very careful while being concerned about how the operation works and the frustration level involved with it. Not to put ourselves in the position where we will bear responsibility for the conflict starting up again."
Visit of king Hassan II in France
The visit raised up many discussions in the principal medias. Many organisations, NGOs and political VIPs expressed their concern about the violation of Human Rights in his country and the Moroccan policy about the Western Sahara conflict which brought the peace plan to fail. All communist and some socialist deputees stayed away from the king's speech before the french parliament. Public manifestations were organised by Moroccan opponents, the Friends of SADR and other NGOs, to denounce the violations of Human Rights in Morocco and Western Sahara and to ask for a pacific solution of the Western Sahara conflict. Former prisoner of conscience and actual representative of AFAPREDESA in Europe Daoud El Khadir said there are still now 526 disappeared Sahrawis and about 20 Sahrawi political detainees in Morocco.
ICRC ready to supervise the repatriation of all prisoners of war
Four delegates and a doctor from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited, from 26 to 29 April last, 540 Moroccan prisoners, out of approximately 1,900 still held by the Polisario Front. It was the first of a series of three visits planned for 1996 to see all these men, most of whom fell into enemy hands between 1978 and 1982 and have thus spent over fifteen years in captivity. The ICRC Delegate General for the Middle East and North Africa, who headed last month's mission, met high-ranking officials from the Polisario Front to look into the possibility of settling all humanitarian issues resulting from the Western Sahara conflict. The ICRC remains at the disposal of the two parties to oversee the repatriation as soon as possible of all prisoners held in connection with that conflict.
The Secretary-General's report on Western Sahara had gone to the Security Council
In his last report to the S.C. (S/1996/343) Mr. Boutros Ghali declared that unfortunately, as a result of the positions of the parties, all efforts to resume that process had failed. "In fact, we have identified now 60,000 persons, but there are 156,924 applicants remaining to be identified." In his report, the Secretary-General concluded that the willingness did not exist to give MINURSO the cooperation needed for it to resume and complete the identification process within a reasonable period of time. It was stalemated, and he was recommending that the process be suspended until such time as the parties provided convincing evidence that they were fully committed to resuming it without further obstacles.
This means that remaining members of the identification commission will leave the area at the end of May this year with the exception of a few who will stay behind to close up shop and get their records all together.
The civilian police component would also be withdrawn except for a very small number which would be kept to maintain contact with both sides.
On the military side, the maintenance of the cease-fire had been a major achievement for MINURSO and, therefore, the Secretary-General was recommending that the presence be considered still essential. The Secretary-General was, however, proposing that it be reduced by 20 per cent from 288 to 230 military personnel. At the end of the day, said the Secretary-General, the United Nations could not abandon its responsibility to seek a political settlement. He was proposing to maintain a political office headed by his acting representative, and also a liaison office. The offices would maintain a dialogue with the parties and the two neighbouring countries. He concluded his report by stating that, "although the conditions don't exist today to achieve the settlement plan, we mustn't let all our efforts go to waste, and we must build on the achievements we have made so far -- the identification of 60,000 people, the maintenance of the cease-fire". He is asking for a six-month extension of MINURSO's mandate.
El Karama, No 8, avril-mai-juin 1996, version française, 4 p. Maroc: des centaines de Sahraouis "disparus", L'Humanité, Paris, 4.5.96, p. 2 Les mirages du Sahara occidental, Mével Jean-Jacques, Le Figaro, Paris, 6.5.96, p. 4 (report from the Sahrawi refugee camps) Le roi du Maroc, notre ami retrouvé, Smith Stephen, Libération, Paris, 6.5.96 La visite du souverain du Maroc à l'assemblée ne fait pas l'unanimité, Smith Stephen et P. Virot, Libération, 7.5.96, p. 2 Un jour de honte pour la république, Perrault Gilles, Le Monde, 7.5.96, p. 16 Drogue et diplomatie, La Croix, Paris, 7.5.96, p. 2 La réception de Hassan II à l'assemblée nationale suscite des remous au sein du PS, Simon Catherine, Le Monde, 8.5.96, p. 3 L'opposition de sa majesté dispose d'une étroite marge de manoeuvre, Simon Catherine, Le Monde, 8.5.96, p. 3 Hassan II divise l'Assemblée nationale, Smith Stephen et P. Virot, Libération, 8.5.96, p. 6 Le Maroc premier exportateur de cannabis en Europe, Le Figaro, 8.5.96.