Morrocco Calls for Respect to International Law After Seizure of a cargo ship of phosphates
Morocco reiterated that its exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara was carried out “within the framework of international law”, in reaction to the arrest of a cargo ship of phosphates in South Africa.
A cargo ship loaded with phosphates destined for New Zealand was blocked on Monday during a stopover in South Africa following a decision of a local court, following a complaint by the Moroccan authorities in Laayoune (Western Sahara under Moroccan control).
Independent lawyer Andre Bowley said the petition was filed by “the Polisario Front and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to demand the return of phosphates transported in violation of international principles.”
Former Spanish colony, Western Sahara is disputed by Morocco, which controls most of it since 1975, and the Polisario Front. The Polisario, supported by Algeria, demands a referendum of self-determination while Rabat proposes autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
By the end of 2016, the European Court had ruled that the free trade agreement for agricultural and fisheries products between the European Union and Morocco did not concern Western Sahara.
This decision had paved the way for numerous appeals against Morocco on the part of the Polisario who intends to use it as jurisprudence.
“The natural resources of the Moroccan Sahara are exploited in the framework of international law and the provisions of national sovereignty,” Moroccan government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said on Thursday night in Rabat.
“Morocco’s benefits from the exploitation of these natural resources are marginal compared to the public policies carried out by the kingdom in the southern provinces (Western Sahara, ed.),” He continued.
Moroccan State, which is 95% -owned by the Moroccan State, is one of the world leaders in the sector.
The exploitation of phosphates and its derivatives, particularly fertilizers, is a key sector of the economy, accounting for almost a quarter of the country’s exports and approximately 3.5% of GDP, employing more than 20,000 people.
If its main production unit is located in Khouribga (center), OCP also operates a site near Laâyoune, via its subsidiary Phosboucraa.
“We are confident and serene as Phosboucraa is acting in strict compliance with international law and in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations,” an official of the OCP told the local press.
The United Nations Security Council has called for fresh negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario, which runs its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR.
Talks have failed for years to end the dispute. Morocco wants the region to have autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Polisario wants to hold a referendum on self-determination, including on the question of independence.