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The Inapplicability of the Settlement Plan

The accumulation of problems and dead-end situations that paralyzed the implementation of the Settlement Plan led the UN Secretary General to seek the good offices of the former US Secretary of State, Mr. James Baker, in 1997 then in 1999, with a view to assess the implementation of the Plan and to make, if need be, a recommendation of other means to settle the dispute.

After many vain attempts to restart the implementation of the Plan, the Secretary General and his Personal Envoy concluded that after nine years “it has not been possible (…) to implement in full any of the main provisions of the United Nations Settlement Plan” (Report of 17 February 2000).

In accordance with his mandate, Mr. James Baker held four meetings intended to respond to the aspiration of the international community to see this question settled definitely and democratically. The meetings were successively held in London (14 May and 28 June 2000), Geneva (July 2000) and Berlin (September 2000).

Following these meetings, Mr. Baker was of the view that “it is much better to reach a political solution than seeing the process collapse as this could lead to the resumption of hostilities, which must be avoided at any cost.”

On the basis of the findings by the two highest UN officials in charge of this question, the Security Council adopted its Resolution 1309 of 25 July 2000, inviting the parties “to try to resolve the multiple problems relating to the implementation of the Settlement Plan and to try to agree upon a mutually acceptable political solution to their dispute over Western Sahara”.

Morocco responded to the Council’s aspirations expressing “its readiness to engage, with the other party, in a sincere and open dialogue concerning the dispute” with a view to reach a lasting and final solution that takes into account the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Morocco as well as the region’s own characteristics.

The acceptance by Morocco to support a devolution of power “to all inhabitants and former inhabitants of the territory, that is genuine, tangible and in accordance with international norms”, paved the way for Mr. James Baker to submit a draft framework agreement which, using the Secretary General’s word in his report of 20 June 2001, “aims at reaching an early, durable and agreed resolution of the conflict over Western Sahara in a way that does not foreclose self-determination, but indeed provides for it”.

By its resolution 1359 of 29 June 2001, the Security Council confirmed the Framework Agreement and “encouraged the parties to discuss the draft Framework Agreement and to negotiate any specific changes they would like to see in this proposal, as well as to discuss any other proposal for a political solution, which may be put forward by the parties, to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement”.

Morocco accepted to negotiate, with the necessary flexibility, on the basis of this agreement in order to find a lasting solution to this regional dispute. Unfortunately Algeria and Polisario ignored resolution 1359 and refused the negotiation proposed by the Secretary General. Worse still, they have afterwards initiated the idea of partition of the territory, a danger for the stability of the whole region, with the obvious aim to impede the process of a political solution.

Indeed, in his report dated 19 February 2002, the Secretary General said that the Algerian President reiterated to him, on 2 November 2001, that “Algeria and the Polisario would be prepared to discuss or negotiate a division of the Territory as a political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara.”

The same report noted that Morocco, while rejecting the idea of division, showed flexibility towards the Draft Framework Agreement (paragraph 40).

By its resolution 1429 of July 30th, 2002, the Security Council requested M. James Baker to propose, before the end of January 2003, a political solution and a framework for negotiation in order to reach a peaceful and lasting settlement of this dispute.

The Security Council did not fail to underline the depth of the divergences over the settlement Plan while stating, for the first time, that the absence of a solution “obstructs the economic development of the Maghreb region” and that “the search for political solution is critically needed”.

Following the adoption of this resolution, the Government of Morocco “reiterates its willingness to continue its cooperation with the Secretary general of the UN and his Personal Envoy as well as with the Security Council in order to put an end to this long-lasting dispute”.

S/2001/613: Framework-Agreement on the status of Western Sahara