Sahara: MINURSO’s new mandate to be extended by one year instead of six months

The mandate of the UN mission in the Sahara, MINURSO, will be extended by one year at the expiry of the current mandate this October 31 instead of six months.

The one-year extension was proposed by the US and France.

UN Security Council broke with its tradition of renewing the UN peacekeeping mission by one year in April 2018 at the instigation of the then US national security advisor John Bolton. Bolton pressured for a six-month renewal, arguing that “intense pressure” on all conflicting parties would yield faster results, despite the reservation expressed in a recommendation of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who had in fact requested, in his October 2018 report, to extend the mandate for 12-month. Since then, Antonio Guterres had been careful not to recommend a term to the mission of Minusro, and had simply asked the members of the Security Council to extend it.

Against all odds, the Americans, the penholders of the Security Council resolution on the Sahara, and once fervent defenders of the biannual renewal of the MINURSO mandate, have this time proposed to extend this mission by twelve months, according to the news outlet Le360 which cited sources close to the dossier.

The change in the Americans’ position could be explained by their sidelining of John Bolton, whose positions were rather hostile towards Morocco on this specific issue of the Sahara, while Washington supports the Kingdom’s autonomy proposal as credible, serious and offering political solution based on compromise and pragmatism, and rejects the Polisario Front’s insistent statehood aspirations.

US policymakers are actually fully aware of the urgency to settle the regional conflict of the Sahara whose procrastination poses a threat for peace and stability in the Sahara-Sahel region.

Besides, the United States made it clear that independence is not an option for settling the dispute over the Moroccan Sahara, and that it would not support a plan leading to a new state in Africa.

“A new state in Africa may actually be less safe. If you try to establish a new country, it could create an area that insurgents and groups like the Islamic State could take advantage of and use as a safe haven,” stated the Wall Street Journal in a story on the Sahara issue last August, noting that Washington and Rabat share the same position in this regard.

This one-year extension of the MINURSO mandate will allow the international community to have more time to find a solution to this longstanding conflict, and will also give greater leeway for the future personal envoy of the UN General Secretary for the Sahara that will replace Horst Köhler, who resigned last May.

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