Remarks following the Adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2440 Extending the Mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Wester

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 31, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President.

As the United States said in April, we have embarked on a new approach on MINURSO’s mandate. First, there can be no more “business as usual” on Western Sahara. Second, we must lend our full support to Personal Envoy Kohler in his efforts to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

We are encouraged by the progress made in the last six months: we welcome Personal Envoy Kohler’s decision to restart a direct negotiation process beginning with a roundtable in Geneva. We are pleased that Morocco, the Frente Polisario, Algeria, and Mauritania have all accepted Personal Envoy Kohler’s invitation in good faith and without preconditions, and we urge that they engage constructively with the Personal Envoy throughout the duration of this process in order to realize a realistic, practicable, and enduring political solution.

However, we caution against any notion that we have crossed a finish line. The political process is only beginning.

We believe that direct negotiations under UN leadership offer a real opportunity to achieve a mutually acceptable solution, and the upcoming meeting in Geneva will be a critical first step in this process. The parties must remain committed to negotiations at the December roundtable and throughout to a successful conclusion.

The meeting in December is not a one-off event. It must be the beginning of a process of direct negotiations. We fully support Personal Envoy Kohler, and we believe the Security Council should do everything it can to ensure he can actively lead and advance this political process, building on the momentum we hope Geneva will generate in order to achieve a long-overdue political solution.

The United States further calls on the parties to respect their relevant obligations and assurances and refrain from any actions that could undermine UN-facilitated negotiations or further destabilize the situation in the Western Sahara.

We express our gratitude to and full support for Personal Envoy Kohler and his team. We welcome the Personal Envoy to the Security Council at any time to brief the Council on the status of his efforts.

We also express thanks to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Colin Stewart, and to all of those working tirelessly as part of MINURSO. We thank the Government of Switzerland for hosting the upcoming talks.

There are those among us who would have preferred a 12-month mandate. However, the political process now beginning under the Personal Envoy’s leadership requires the Security Council’s close attention and support. Shortening MINURSO’s mandate in April signaled that the Council is determined to accelerate the political process and move beyond the status quo. Renewing MINURSO’s mandate again for only six months reflects our continuing resolve to see the negotiations proceed swiftly in good faith and without preconditions. It also makes clear the Security Council will not let Western Sahara and MINURSO slip into the shadows.

As this political process resumes, the United States will carefully evaluate the MINURSO mandate going forward. Further renewals will not be automatic and will hinge on whether MINURSO is contributing to a political solution.

With the launch of a political process, we have started to rectify one of the key challenges to MINURSO, which is making sure that this peacekeeping mission supports a political solution. This change was pivotal to our decision to continue extending the mandate of this peacekeeping mission. As we said in April, the United States will continue to stand by this core principle that peacekeeping missions must support political solutions, and we will assess MINURSO’s future performance accordingly. The United States will continue doing everything possible to support Personal Envoy Kohler and to advance negotiations.

Thank you, Mr. President.