Press Releases

    GA/SPD/293
    19 October 2004

    Security Council Peace Plan for Western Sahara Endorsed by Fourth Committee; Consensus Proves Elusive

    Morocco, Algeria Differ on Approach; Texts Also Approved on New Caledonia, Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Atomic Radiation

    NEW YORK, 18 October (UN Headquarters) -- Unable to reach consensus on the question of Western Sahara, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved a draft resolution on the issue, as orally revised, in a recorded vote of 52 in favour to none against, with 89 abstentions.  The Committee also approved draft texts on the question of New Caledonia, as well as on “International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space” and “Effects of atomic radiation”.

    By the text on Western Sahara, the General Assembly would underline Security Council resolution 1495 (2003), in which the Council expressed its support of the peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as an optimum political solution, on the basis of agreement between the two parties.  Also by the draft, the Assembly would continue to strongly support the efforts of the Secretary-General to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute.

    Before action was taken, the representative of Morocco, noting that Algeria had rejected a proposal by the European Union, said the main point was whether Algeria was ready to accept the Secretary-General’s decision of 11 June on replacing James Baker with Alvaro de Soto to pursue an acceptable negotiated solution.

    The representative of Algeria noted that in the proposal of the European Union, reference to the Special Representative, had been made and that Algeria had accepted “the whole package”.  It was Morocco that had changed its mind, he said.

    In explanations of the vote, speakers expressed regret over the lack of consensus on the resolution, with most strongly supporting continued United Nations efforts to reach a negotiated settlement between the parties.  Speakers included Morocco, Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon, United States, Brazil, Myanmar, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union) Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Russian Federation, Canada, Ukraine and Pakistan. 

    Morocco and Algeria made general statements after the vote.

    Without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution, as orally revised, on the question of New Caledonia, by which the Assembly would urge all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia, to maintain, in the framework of the 1998 Noumea Accord, their dialogue in a spirit of harmony.  In addition, the Assembly would invite all the parties to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination, in which all options are open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians.

    Before concluding its consideration of decolonization items, the Committee recommended that the Assembly increase the membership of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples from 25 to 27 by admitting Dominica and Timor-Leste.

    Before its consideration of decolonization items, the Committee heard representatives of Canada, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Malaysia on “International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space”.  It then approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on the issue by which the Assembly would emphasize the need to increase the benefits of space technology and its applications towards economic growth and sustainable development, particularly in developing countries.  It would urge all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to work actively to prevent an arms race in outer space and to give more attention to such problems as space collisions and debris.

    Also by the text, the Assembly would decide that Libya and Thailand shall become members of the Committee.  It would urge the Committee to expand the scope of international cooperation relating to the social, economic, ethical and human dimension in space science and technology applications.

    The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on the application of the concept of the “launching State”, by which the Assembly would recommend that States conducting space activities consider enacting and implementing national laws authorizing and providing for supervisions of non-governmental activities in outer space under their jurisdiction. 

    Turning its attention to “Effects of atomic radiation”, the Committee heard representatives of Syria, Cuba, Marshall Islands, India, Thailand (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations) and Ukraine.  Speakers urged that the financial problems of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation be resolved and expressed strong support for the work of that Committee.

    The representative of Syria, noting his country’s long-standing proposal that a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East be created, said that, in the absence of supervision of Israeli nuclear facilities, leakage posed a great threat.  Therefore, the international community must bring pressure to bear on Israel to agree to inspection of its facilities. 

    The representative of Ukraine, said that, as 2006 would mark the twentieth anniversary of the “Chernobyl” nuclear accident, his country and others had launched an initiative to hold a special plenary meeting to commemorate the victims of the disaster in the spring of 2006.  Ukraine had a significant scientific capacity in the sphere of radiological research, as well as considerable expertise in dealing with radiation effects, and the atomic radiation Committee could benefit from that expertise.

    Concluding its consideration of the item, the Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft resolution by which the Assembly would request the atomic radiation Committee to continue its work, including its activities to increase knowledge of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation from all sources, and endorse the intentions and plans of that Committee for its future activities of scientific review and assessment.

    The Committee will meet again tomorrow, Tuesday, 19 October, at 3 p.m. to start its consideration of questions relating to information.

    Background

    The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of “International Cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space”, “Effects of atomic radiation”, and “Implementation on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”, and to take action on a number of draft resolutions.

    On international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, the Committee had before it two drafts.

    By the terms of one, on The application of the concept of the “launching State” (Annex II of document A/59/20), the General Assembly would recommend that States conducting space activities consider enacting and implementing national laws authorizing and providing for supervision of non-governmental activities in outer space under their jurisdiction.  States would do so in fulfilling their international obligations under the United Nations treaties on outer space, in particular the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies; the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects; and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.

    The Assembly would also recommend that States consider the conclusion of agreements in accordance with the Liability Convention with respect to joint launches or cooperation programmes.

    The Assembly would further recommend that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space invite Member States to submit information on their current practices regarding “on-orbit transfer of ownership of space objects” and that States consider the possibility of harmonizing such practices.

    The Committee had also before it a 52-clause draft resolution submitted by Nigeria on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space (document A/C.4/59/L.7).  By the terms of the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of international cooperation in developing the rule of law, including the relevant norms of space law and their important role in international cooperation for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

    The Assembly would also, by further terms, endorse the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and urge States that have not yet become parties to the international treaties governing the uses of outer space to consider ratifying or acceding to those treaties, as well as incorporating them in their national legislation.

    According to the text, the Assembly would endorse the Committee’s recommendation that the Legal Subcommittee, at its forty-fourth session, consider, among other things, the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space; the definition and delimitation of outer space; and the character and utilization of the geostationary orbit, including ways to ensure its equitable use without prejudice to the role of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  The Assembly would endorse the recommendation of the Legal Subcommittee to establish an open-ended ad hoc working group to continue to consider the appropriateness of the United Nations acting as supervisory authority.

    By other terms, the Assembly would endorse the Committee’s recommendation that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, at its forty-eighth session, consider, among other things, the United Nations Programme on Space Applications; implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III); matters relating to remote-sensing of Earth by satellite; space debris; use of nuclear power sources in outer space; and space-system-based telemedicine.

    The draft would also have the Assembly endorse the recommendation of the Committee that the Committee on Space Research and the International Astronautical Federation, in liaison with Member States, be invited to arrange a symposium to address high-resolution and hyperspectral satellite data integration for precision farming, environmental monitoring and possible new applications to be held during the first week of the forty-second session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee.

    By further terms of the draft, the Assembly would note with satisfaction that the Committee submitted the report on the review of the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III use in its review and appraisal of that matter at its fifty-ninth session.

    The Assembly would urge all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space, as an essential condition for the promotion of international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.  It would also consider it essential that Member States pay more attention to the problem of collisions of space objects and space debris, agreeing that international cooperation is needed to minimize the impact of space debris on future space missions.

    The text would also have the Assembly emphasize the need to increase the benefits of space technology and its applications, and to contribute to an orderly growth of space activities favourable to sustained economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, in particular the developing countries.  It would note with satisfaction all measures taken and conferences organized toward that objective.  The Assembly would urge entities of the United Nations system to examine how space science and technology could contribute to attaining the goals of the Millennium Declaration.

    By other terms, the Assembly would request the Committee to consider, as a matter of priority, ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes and to report to the Assembly at its sixtieth session.  It would agree that the Committee should consider ways to promote regional and interregional cooperation based on experiences stemming from the Space Conference of the Americas and the role space technology could play in the implementation of the recommendations emerging from the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

    Also by the text, the Assembly would decide that Libya and Thailand shall become members of the Committee.  It would urge the Committee to expand the scope of international cooperation relating to the social, economic, ethical and human dimension in space science and technology applications.

    By the terms of a draft resolution on Effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/59/L.8), the General Assembly would request the United Nations Scientific committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation to continue its work, including its activities to increase knowledge of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation from all sources and endorse the intentions and plans of the Scientific Committee for its future activities of scientific review and assessment.

    By the terms, the Assembly would request the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to continue providing support for the work of the Scientific Committee and urge UNEP to review and strengthen the present funding of the Scientific committee.

    Also by the draft, the Assembly would invite Member States, the organizations of the Untied Nations system and non-governmental organizations concerned to provide further relevant data about doses, effects and risks from various sources of radiation, and invite the Scientific Committee to analyse and give due to such information.

    The draft resolution was co-sponsored by: Argentina; Australia; Belgium; Brazil; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; China; Czech Republic; France; Guatemala; Ireland; Japan; Kazakhstan; Malaysia; Mexico; Monaco; Peru; Poland; Singapore; Slovakia; Sweden; Thailand; Ukraine; and the United Kingdom.

    Regarding decolonization issues, the Committee had before it two draft texts, one on the question of Western Sahara, and one on New Caledonia (for summary of the draft texts see Press Release GA/SPD/290 of 12 October).

    International Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

    Statements

    ALLISON GRANT (Canada) said her country had a rich history in space exploration, placing satellites into orbit and sending astronauts into space.  It had relied on communications satellites to link people and communities for many years.  Canada would continue to actively support the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to secure the continued access to outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes.  Meanwhile, it would continue to seek the means of ensuring the security of its orbital assets while at the same time opposing the positioning of weapons in outer space.  She note that her Canada’s Prime Minister had stated, “In 1967, the United Nations agreed that weapons of mass destruction must not be based in space.  The time has come to extend this ban to all weapons.”

    She said that over the past three years, Canada had been actively involved in supporting the work of various action teams created to ensure the implementation of the recommendations from UNISPACE III.  That innovative mechanism, a first within the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, would ensure concrete results.  Canada, along with France and China, had acted as co-chair for the action team on disaster management.  She supported the recommendation for a study on the possibility of creating an international entity to provide for coordination and for the means of optimizing the effectiveness of space-based services for use in disaster management.

    SONG SE IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the challenges to peaceful development and uses of outer space gave rise to grave concerns.  Despite agreements reached in UNISPACE III and opposition from all over the world, initiatives to turn space into a military base were still continuing.  The establishment of a missile defence system, under the pretext that another country’s satellite launch aimed at peaceful uses of outer space was a “missile test”, was a vivid example of an attempt to realize one’s military and strategic ambitions to dominate the world.  More and more, spy and war equipment were deployed in outer space.  All States should exert themselves to set up international legal and preventive mechanisms to prevent militarization of outer space.

    He said all countries should equally and freely participate in the peaceful exploration and uses of outer space.  All attempts to monopolize the exploration of outer space, and to obstruct developing countries from exploring, should no longer be tolerated.  It was important to share the latest achievements in the field of space exploration for the well-being of all countries and people.  All space programmes of the United Nations system should give priority to assisting developing countries, and the developed countries should share advanced space technologies and achievements with developing countries.  His country would further develop space science and technology, and actively cooperate with other countries for the peaceful uses of outer space.

    PIRAT ATSAVAPRANEE (Malaysia) said his country remained deeply committed to the peaceful exploration of outer space.  Its National Space Agency subscribed to the goal of forging and strengthening international cooperation to that end, as its national resources were limited.  In that regard, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space should be supported and strengthened.  Greater efforts should be made to prevent negative effects of space debris, and an international agreement should be drawn up to prevent an arms race in outer space.  In those efforts, the Committee should seek to establish a practical mechanism for coordinating its work with other relevant bodies such as the Conference on Disarmament.

    Reviewing Malaysia’s space activities, he said the country was working on its second earth observation satellite in collaboration with the Republic of Korea, a mission control-centre was being built and an astronaut programme was being developed.  Malaysia had also hosted several international space-related meetings, many of them on remote sensing applications and was currently setting up a national observatory.  As a co-leader of a UNISPACE III action team, it was promoting access to space-based communications services, and had initiated many space-related educational programmes.  Looking toward the future, he said that, with commercialized space flight beginning, new issues such as space tourism need to be looked at by the committee.

    Action on Draft Resolutions

    ADIGUN ADE ABIODUN (Nigeria), Chairman, Working Group of the Whole, introduced the draft resolution on “Application of the concept of the ‘launching State’”, as contained in document A/59/20 Annex II.  He also introduced the draft resolution on “International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space”, as contained in document A/C.4/59/L.7.

    The Committee was informed that the Secretariat did not anticipate any programme budget implications arising from the draft resolutions.

    The representative of Ecuador proposed that paragraph 22 should read:  “Notes with satisfaction that the Government of Ecuador is considering positively hosting the Fifth Space Conference of the Americas, to be held in Quito in the second half of 2005 or in 2006.”

    The representative of Iran said proposed that in paragraph 29, “The Islamic Republic of Iran” be added after Teheran.

    Without a vote, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly adopt the draft resolution as orally amended.

    Action on Application of the Concept of the “Launching State”

    Without a vote, the Committee then recommended that the General Assembly adopt the draft resolution on the concept of the “Launching State”.

    Effects of Atomic Radiation

    Statements

    LOUAY FALLOUH (Syria) commended the work of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and urged that its financial problems be resolved.  Nuclear materials could be used for advancement in medicine, industry and agriculture for sustainable development.  For that reason, he said, unreasonable restrictions should not be placed on the uses of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.  On the other hand, it was essential to control nuclear weapons.  For that reason, Syria had long proposed that a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East be created.

    In addition, in the absence of supervision of Israeli nuclear facilities, leakage posed a great threat.  Therefore, the international community must bring pressure to bear on Israel to agree to inspection of its facilities.  No solution to shield humanity from the lethal danger of atomic radiation could be found except through international cooperation and determination.

    RODNEY LOPEZ CLEMENTE (Cuba) said the report under consideration contained a comprehensive review of the risks faced by the descendants of those who had been exposed to ionizing radiation.  Cuba cooperated with its sister nation of Ukraine to alleviate the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.  A total of 17,593 Ukrainian patients had been treated in a special hospital in Havana City since 1990.  Some 3,000 Russian and 730 Belarusian children had been treated in another hospital.  A brigade of six Cuban specialist doctors had offered their services to treat children from Chernobyl at the Friendship Sanatorium in Evpatoria, Crimea, as part of the Ukraine collaboration programme.

    He stressed the importance of strengthening the cooperation among the Scientific Committee and the different agencies and institutions of the United Nations system, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  Elimination of the potential dangers resulting from ionizing radiation could only be achieved through comprehensive and serious cooperation on the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

    RINA TAREO (Marshall Islands) said the agenda item was of the utmost concern for the people of her country, since many nuclear tests had been conducted there by the United States between 1946 and 1958.  Many of those people continued to suffer from long-term health effects while others remained displaced from their homes due to the ongoing contamination.  She commended the Committee for providing the general public with access to its findings, particularly by making its publications available on the Internet.  Recognizing the importance of its work in general, she strongly supported ensuring an adequate operating budget for the Committee, at the level originally requested for 2004-2005.

    KIRIP CHALIHA (India), said he recognized the value of the Scientific Committee, and noted with satisfaction that it continued to develop a set of documents on sources and effects of radiation as future scientific annexes.  In addition, however, the world-wide distribution of radon and thoron in homes needed to be assessed.  Effects of non-targeted radiation, as well as radiation exposure in high-level natural background areas needed to be carefully evaluated as well.  He requested the Scientific Committee to take note of the recently published report on the incidence of cancer in the high-level natural-radiation area in Kerala, which did not indicate any alarming increase in cancer there.

    He expressed appreciation for the fact that the Scientific Committee had developed advanced collaboration with scientists from Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation and supported comparative analysis of data based on a common methodology which would permit an objective assessment.  Finally he recommended strongly that the present funding of the Committee be augmented to the level originally requested in the biennium 2004 to 2005 and be continued for future biennia as well.

    LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand), on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the Scientific Committee on atomic radiation had greatly contributed to the awareness of the risks of exposure to various sources of radiation.  In that light, she remained concerned about the Committee’s inadequate funding.  She was encouraged, however, by this year’s close cooperation between the Committee and a number of relevant international organizations.

    She described the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, created by the ASEAN members, which was meant to control nuclear threats while reserving the right of the States parties to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  In light of terrorism and other threats, the ASEAN members had taken further measures to prevent nuclear proliferation.  She requested that assistance should be extended to States for the peaceful use of radioactive materials consistent with international safety and security standards.  The international community must leave no stone unturned in ensuring safe use of atomic energy while safeguarding against its risks.

    MYKOLA MELENEVSKYI (Ukraine) said he was concerned about the inadequate level or resources of the operating budget of the Scientific Committee for the biennium 2004-2005.  Appropriate measures needed to be taken to ensure that the Committee was in a position to effectively discharge its important responsibilities.  He welcomed official collaboration between the Committee and Ukrainian scientists that resulted in intensifying research on the health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident.  He hoped that ongoing comparison of data would allow valuable recommendations to be reached towards resolving that complex problem.

    Noting that 2006 would mark the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, he said his country and others had launched an initiative to hold a special plenary meeting to commemorate the victims of the disaster in the spring of 2006.  Ukraine had a significant scientific capacity in the sphere of radiological research, as well as considerable expertise in dealing with radiation effects.  He was convinced that the effectiveness of the Committee’s work would only benefit from inviting the countries with special expertise in the field of atomic radiation.  Ukraine was in a position to make a valuable contribution.

    Action on Draft

    The Committee then turned its attention to a draft resolution on “Effects of atomic radiation” (document A/C.4/59/L.8), and was informed that the Secretariat did not anticipate any programme budget implications arising from it and that Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Greece, Iceland, India, Israel, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation and Uruguay had joined as co-sponsors.

    Without a vote, the Committee then recommended that the General Assembly adopt the draft resolution.

    The Committee had thus concluded consideration of the agenda-item.

    Decolonization Issues:  Question of Western Sahara

    The Committee then turned its attention to the draft resolution on “The question of Western Sahara”, as contained in document A/C.4/59/L.4, and was informed that Solomon Islands and Suriname had joined as co-sponsors.  The Committee was also informed of some editorial changes.

    The representative of Algeria said that the Committee had decided to take more time to come up with a text that would satisfy everyone.  He still hoped that it would be possible to adopt the resolution submitted by Nigeria without a vote.  If the other party decided not to join the consensus, then a vote would have to take place.  He hoped that was not the case, but if it were, he hoped as many countries as possible would give their support to the draft.

    The representative of Morocco thanked the representative of Algeria for his statement, but noted that Morocco had already accepted a proposal by the European Union that Algeria had rejected.  Unfortunately, the main point was still the same -- was Algeria ready to accept the Secretary-General’s decision of 11 June on replacing James Baker with Alvaro de Soto to pursue an acceptable negotiated solution?  Regarding the resolution, Morocco had to act as the most interested party in the political process in the Western Sahara, since Algeria claimed it was not an interested party.  He accepted the decision of the legal advisers and the judgement of the Chairman regarding the necessity of a vote.

    The representative of Algeria noted that in the proposal of the Netherlands, reference to the Special Representative had been made in paragraph five.  Algeria accepted the whole package.  Morocco had changed its mind.

    Morocco’s representative said everybody knew the situation.  It was a matter of yes or no, to allow Mr. De Soto to pursue efforts towards a political situation.

    Explanation of Vote before Vote

    The representative of Morocco said that by appealing for a vote on a resolution that ignored Mr. de Soto, Algeria had decided to block efforts to find a mutually acceptable political solution, although it had voted in favour of Security Council resolution 1541 (2004), which called upon the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to pursue efforts towards such a solution.  The Secretary-General, in a letter to the President of the Council (document S/2004/492), had said that, as Special Representative for Western Sahara, Alvaro de Soto would, with the parties and neighbouring countries, pursue the search for a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.

    He said Algeria, today, had decided to deny Mr. De Soto his role as a mediator.  It had thus shouldered considerable responsibility in blocking the search for a solution.  That attempt to sabotage the process was in flagrant contradiction not only with the vote in favour of Council resolution 1541, but also in contradiction of Algeria’s position as a member of the Security Council.  The King of Morocco had reaffirmed his country’s commitment to seeking a mutually acceptable political solution, and his willingness to work together with Mr. de Soto to arrive as soon as possible at a political solution.

    The representative of Senegal said he continued to support all efforts by the Secretary-General towards a negotiated agreement on Western Sahara.  The current draft did not take into account all the efforts of the Secretary-General or his Special Representative.  Given that important gap, his delegation would abstain from voting on the resolution.

    The representative of Guinea said that there had been every chance of reaching a solution acceptable to all the parties, but it was not the case.  He was concerned that it appeared that the Committee was not giving adequate support to the Secretary-General in his quest for a mutually-acceptable negotiated settlement.  For that reason, he would abstain.

    Action on Draft

    In a vote of 52 in favour to none against, with 89 abstentions, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly adopt the draft resolution as orally amended.  (See Annex.)

    Explanation of Vote after Vote

    The representative of Cameroon, explaining his abstention, said that having friendly relations with all the parties, he would have preferred consensus.  He expressed hope that the parties would arrive at a mutually acceptable solution that would preserve the peace.

    The representative of the United States said that absent a consensus document, he was unable to vote for the resolution.  The rhetoric that had arisen during the discussion was of particular concern.  His country strongly supported the work of James Baker and all United Nations efforts in Western Sahara.  He encouraged the Secretary-General to continue his efforts.

    The representative of Brazil said he regretted the absence of consensus.  A vote did not advance the peace in the region.  Brazil continued to support the peace plan and the Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable negotiated solution.  He continued to support self-determination of the Saharawi people and said that his abstention did not prejudice any outcome for a negotiated solution.

    The representative of Myanmar said he strongly believed in the self-determination of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and that is why he voted for the current draft resolution.  He still, however, hoped for a mutually acceptable negotiated solution to the question.

    The representative of the Netherlands, speaking for the European Union and Turkey, said the Union had abstained and regretted the fact that it had not been possible to reach consensus.  The Union supported the just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, as envisaged in Security Council resolutions 1495 and 1541.  He thanked Mr. Baker for his tireless efforts and reiterated the support of the European Union for Mr. de Soto.

    He said the Union remained deeply concerned about the humanitarian aspects.  The issue of prisoners of war must be dealt with immediately.  He called on POLISARIO to release all remaining prisoners of war and called on both parties to continue to cooperate with the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to solve the problem of the fate of all those unaccounted for since the beginning of the conflict.  He encouraged the parties to collaborate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the implementation of confidence-building measures, to solve the problems of all those unaccounted for.  

    The representative of Indonesia said his country had consistently supported the principle of self-determination and efforts for a comprehensive solution to the question of Western Sahara.  However, a viable solution could be reached only through dialogue and cooperation.  He regretted that the two delegations could not reach a consensus.  Indonesia’s abstention from the vote should not be interpreted as being in favour of either of the parties.

    The representative of Japan also expressed regret over the lack of consensus.  He abstained because there had been room for improvement in the resolution and consensus had not been achieved.

    The representative of Egypt said that he abstained from the vote because of his conviction that direct dialogue between the parties concerned was necessary.

    The representative of El Salvador said that the United Nations had an important role in negotiating a fair and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara.  She urged the parties to cooperate in order to implement the agreed understandings.

    The representative of Guatemala said it supported Security Council resolutions on Western Sahara and welcomed the efforts the Secretary-General, as well as the peace plan.  Unfortunately, absent negotiated agreement on that peace plan, she had decided to abstain.

    The representative of Chile deplored the fact that no consensus had been reached this year.  His country had abstained in order to avoid prejudging its position as a member of the Council, but it supported the peace process as envisaged by Council resolutions.  His country’s abstention should not be interpreted as indicating any preference. 

    The representative of Russian Federation regretted that the Committee had deviated from its traditional consensus on the issue.  He had voted in favour of the draft resolution as his country had been in favour of a peaceful solution through political means in accordance with the relevant Council resolutions.  He supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and Mr. de Soto aimed at finding a mutually acceptable settlement of the problem.  The Council resolutions had declared support for the work done by Mr. Baker and the peace plan for self–determination as being the optimum solution.

    The representative of Canada, speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said the countries’ abstentions underlined their regret that the concerned parties had been unable to reach consensus.  She was disappointed that the parties had not made greater efforts to come to an understanding.  She fully supported the efforts of the international community through the United Nations.

    The representative of Ukraine said that today’s vote did not serve the purpose of forwarding a negotiated solution that allowed the self-determination of the Territory’s people.  Therefore, he had abstained.

    The representative of Pakistan said that he had abstained because of lack of consensus, which could have added to the momentum to the peace process.  He did not want that abstention to imply favour to any side in the conflict, however.

    General Statements after Vote

    The representative of Algeria said that the Committee had just spoken in favour of the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  Morocco had placed itself outside of international legality by its recent statements.  The vote also showed that the question of Western Sahara was an unfinished matter for decolonization and must be resolved in that light.  Morocco’s statements of possession of Territory on the basis of immemorial rights had a parallel in another country that claimed to possess another people’s territory based on its heritage.

    The representative of Morocco thanked all those who, through abstaining from the vote, had supported the Secretary-General and his Special Representative and thus had supported international legality.

    Action on Draft Resolution on Question of New Caledonia

    The Committee then took up consideration of the draft resolution on “The question of New Caledonia”, as contained in document A/59/23, Chapter XXII, draft resolution V.

    The representative of Papua New Guinea introduced a revision in operative paragraph 8, to delete the words “of all New Caledonians, especially the indigenous Kanak people”, replacing them with “and identity of all the sectors of the population,”.

    Without a vote, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly adopt the draft resolution, as orally revised.

    After the vote, the representative of France thanked all the members of the Special Committee for the spirit in which they worked on the resolution.

    The Committee then adopted, without a vote, a draft decision contained in document A/C.4/59/L.2/Rev.1, by which Dominica and Timor-Leste would become members of the “Special Committee of 24”.

    The representative of Dominica thanked delegations for their support.  He expressed his commitment to the Special Committee and to the people of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.

    The representative of Spain, referring to the decision taken earlier on Gibraltar, proposed that the Spanish translation of paragraph 3 should be corrected to be made closer to the English in several phrases.

    (annex follows)


    ANNEX

    Vote on Question of Western Sahara

    The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/59/L.4) by a recorded vote of 52 in favour to none against, with 89 abstentions, as follows:

    In favour:  Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Grenada, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, South Africa, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

    Against:  None.

    Abstaining:  Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Yemen.

    Absent:  Afghanistan, Albania, Belarus, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

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