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Press release

16 June 2000



Former US secratary-of-state James A Baker III will be in London on the 28th and 29th June to preside over a second round of talks between the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front, the Western Saharan liberation movement.

UN Security Council resolution 1301 (31 May 2000) asks the parties to offer "specific and concrete proposals that can be agreed to in order to resolve the multiple problems relating to the implementation of the Settlement Plan for a referendum to decide the sovereignty of Western Sahara.

Kofi Annan recently reported that a previous round of talks in London on the 14 May led to "a frank exchange of views" but proved "inconclusive". (S/2000/461 22 May 2000). In his opinion, the parties' "widely divergent positions" made the "prospects of holding the referendum as distant as ever". he recommended that the parties consider "other ways" of resolving the conflict.

In adopting resolution 1301, the Security Council rejected these terms and reiterated their support for the existing Settlement Plan. The resolution was passed by twelve votes with two abstentions and one against. Unusually, five members of the Security Council provided accompanying statements disagreeing with the UN Secretary-General analysis of the situation.

Arnold Peter Van Walsum for the Netherlands stated:

"his delegation felt the draft before the Council did not adequately reflect continued committment to the Settlement Plan. That sense has been expressed by a large number of delegations - including his own - during consultations. In preambular paragraph 5 of the draft, the Council voiced support for the Plan, but the abrupt addition noting "the fundamental differences between the parties" did not reflect the importance the Council claimed to attach to the Settlement Plan".

The Polisario Front states that there is no disagreement between Morocco and the Polisario, the disagreement lies between Morocco and the UN.

On January 17 2000, after interviewing 198'000 applicants, the UN Identification Commission found 86'386 people eligible to vote. Morocco protested stating that it would not allow the referendum to go ahead unless all the applicants it had sponsored were allowed to vote.

The Polisario believe that it is the responsibility of the UN to uphold the results of the identification process, a process conducted by the UN under criteria established through agreements signed by both parties.

Under the terms of the Settlement Plan, the MINURSO mission was to identify eligible voters prior to the referendum. Those present in Western Sahara in 1974, and their descendants were eligible to vote. The UN had originally planned to organise a referendum in 1975, but Morocco invaded the territory.

According to the Plan, the 1974 Spanish Census of 73'497 Saharawis formed the core of the electorate. Morocco presented the UN with lists of 180'000 applicants who they argued were not present in the census but had lived in Western Sahara before 1975, during a hundred years of Spanish rule.

In his report, Kofi Annan notes that over 130'000 appeals have now been received following the results of the identification process. The majority reside in Morocco. The Secretary-General earlier advised that the majority of its appeals had failed to provide the requisite new information required under the UN Appeals Agreements for a hearing. Morocco is asking for all appellants to be reinterviewed despite these Agreements.

The Western Sahara Campaign UK believes that a free and fair referendum can be conducted in the near future, if the UN strictly applies the terms of the existing UN Settlement Plan. A view expressed by many members of the Security Council in their statements.

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