The Security Council on Friday extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara until 31 October 2018, calling for a "realistic, practicable and enduring" political solution to end the decades‑old conflict.
Western Sahara is located on the north-west coast of Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria. The colonial administration of Western Sahara by Spain ended in 1976. Fighting later broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front. A ceasefire was signed in September 1991.
The UN mission, known by its French acronym, MINURSO, was deployed that year to oversee a ceasefire and a UN settlement plan; however, disagreements between the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front prevented the holding of the anticipated referendum on the territory's future.
A revised settlement plan proposed by the United Nations after seven years of diplomatic consultations was rejected by one of the parties in 2004.
In renewing the mandate of MINURSO, by a vote of 12 in favour to none against, with China, Ethiopia and Russia abstaining, the Council called on parties to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary‑General without preconditions and in good faith.
Emphasizing the importance of a "renewed commitment" by the parties to advance the political process in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, the Council called on parties to work in an atmosphere "propitious for dialogue."
In that context, the Council affirmed its full support for the Secretary‑General and Personal Envoy to relaunch negotiations with "a new dynamic and a new spirit" with the aim of reaching a mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara.