East Timor - Western Sahara
Approximately one year before the Sahrawis, the East Timorese were able to exercise their right to self-determination as part of a settlement negotiated by the United Nations, Portugal, the former colonial power, and Indonesia, which has occupied East Timor since 1975. The East Timorese voted 80% in favour of independence, without any campaigning by the independence movement. The tragic events following the referendum, which had been predicted by informed observers, demonstrates the international community's powerlessness and cowardliness in failing to insist that their right be respected.
The bloody events over recent days have been met around the world with indignation and gestures of solidarity with the East Timorese. It has also caused much reflection about the implications for the Western Sahara.
A call for solidarity from Portugal was joined by several Sahrawi organizations and individuals. Numerous other calls were spread worldwide. The Spanish press published analyses and comparisons between the two conflicts.
Felipe Briones, Secretary-General of the International Association of Jurists for the Western Sahara, who participated in the Timorese referendum as accredited international observer, stated upon his return that this experience has better prepared him for his mission in the Western Sahara. He also criticized the role the UN played in the former Portuguese colony for its failure to take the context of the vote into account, and highlighted the similarity between the two conflicts. The tragic developments since the vote in East Timor demonstrate that it is absolutely critical to disarm the Moroccan army if a just and democratic referendum is to take place in the Western Sahara.

For more information see the page of links to East Timor.

The identification process resumed following resolution of the problem regarding the designation of sheikh and advisors for some of the "contested" tribes. Identification was interrupted from 24.07 to 5.09.99.

During his visit to Algiers, US Under-Secretary of State for the Middle East and the Maghreb, Martin Indyk, stated that the US hoped that relations would improve between Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. He spoke in favour of the "Eizenstadt Plan," a partnership program between the US and the Maghreb, launched a few months ago along with a strengthening of US initiatives to see the international community's resolutions on the Western Sahara implemented. The Plan involves the creation of a free trade zone and a projected $2 billion in investments, three-quarters of which is destined for Algeria.

Report of the UN Secretary-General S/954/1999

The report cites positive indications that the Moroccan Government and the POLISARIO Front intend to maintain the progress made towards the holding of the referendum. As at 3 September 1999, a total of 47,796 appeals had been received by MINURSO. The majority of appeals received to date, 40,440, are against non-inclusion in the first part of the provisional list of persons eligible to vote, 7,356 appeals are challenging another person's inclusion in the provisional list. The Mission will continue to keep some of its appeals centres open until September 18th, as planned, and after that hearings will be held to complete the appeals process.
As far as the timetable for completing the process goes, the Secretary-General says that the identification of the remaining members of the "contested tribes" could be finished by the end of December. The report also mentions difficulties at the airport customs in El Aayoune where standard communications material, essential for the functioning of the identification centres, has been held for several weeks.
The modalities of the implementation of the status-of-forces concerning the carriage of weapons is still in discussion between the UN Force Commander and Moroccan representatives. The Moroccan authorities agreed in principle with the activities envisaged by UNHCR, which are aimed at fostering a climate of confidence within the Territory and in the Tindouf refugee camps. Minister Basri reiterated his Government's full support and cooperation to enable UNHCR to complete its preparatory activities as provided for under the Settlement Plan. Some progress was also made with the Moroccan authorities in the discussions regarding the draft refugee repatriation protocol. To date, 26,429 refugees (3,701 families) have been pre-registered by UNHCR. Emmanuel Roucounas appointed as the Independent Jurist announced to end his mission and a new Independent Jurist will be appointed in due course.
The number of appeals filed to date is substantial and will require more time and the deployment of a larger staff than originally envisaged, the Secretary-General concludes. He will not be in a position to give the Council a revised timetable until early December, so in the meantime, he recommends that the Mission's mandate be extended through December 14.


About fourthy students demonstrated on Friday at El Ayoune in front of the seat of the regional administration Laayoune-Boujdour, Boulevard de la Mecque.The demonstrators held up a a streamer worded: «The Saharawi students demonstrate and claim their legitimate rights». The demonstration continued with a sit-in until 20h.

Peace process

A delegation of the United Kingdom, with Ms Harriet Cross, secretary at the British Embassy of Rabat, Mr Nick Robbins, in charge of the Maghreb at the Foreign Office and an Officer of the Ministry of Defense, Mr David Evans, spent a few days in the refugee camps and liberated territories of the SADR. They hold talks with a Saharawi delegation including the President of the Saharawi Parliament Mr. Abdel Kader Taleb Omar, Military Commander Mr. Hama Salama and the wali of Smara Mr. Walad Moussa, as well as the POLISARIO representative in the UK. The delegation exprimed its surprise about the great number of appeals filed to date.
This mission is part of the measures decided by the UN Security Council member states in order to supervise the progress of the process and to put pressure upon Morocco to avoid more delays. (SPS )


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