Irish government expects Irish companies to respect international law
Brian Cowen, acting Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, expects Irish companies to have due regard to the principles of international law and the rights of the people of the territory of Western Sahara. Irish company San Leon is leading the way in the onshore exploration of oil and gas in occupied Western Sahara.  
Published: 28.01 - 2011 09:15Printer version    
Irish oil company San Leon - which has an agreement with a Moroccan state oil company in occupied Western Sahara - works against the policy of the Irish government.

“The Government has consistently made clear its view that any exploration and exploitation activities that proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to natural resource activities in non-self governing territories. The Government would expect that any Irish company operating abroad would have due regard to the principles of international law and the rights of the inhabitants of the territory”, acting Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brain Cowen responded to questions regarding illegal business practice by Irish companies in Western Sahara.

The questions were raised in the Irish Parliament - Houses of the Oireacthas - by Maureen O’Sullivan (Independent) and Finian McGrath (Independent). Read their questions and Minister Cowen’s full reply below.

The parliamentary questions are a consequence of a campaign by human rights group Western Sahara Action Ireland, which is requesting that the Irish government issue an official statement against all illegal and unethical business activities by Irish companies in Western Sahara.


Parliamentary Question No. 317 – Finian McGrath


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding illegal business practice by Irish companies in Western Sahara; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [Ref No:   3336/11]
                       

Parliamentary Question No. 323 – Maureen O’Sullivan


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding illegal business practice in Western Sahara; if he will request Irish companies operating there to suspend their business until such time as the Saharawi people benefit from the presence of international companies in their country; if he will make it clear to Irish companies abroad that unethical and illegal business practices will not be accepted by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [Ref No:   3485/11]


Reply on 25 January 2011 by acting Minister of Foreign Affairs - Brian Cowen

I propose to answer questions 317 and 323 together.

The Government has consistently supported the right to self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara.  Ireland has not taken a position on the future status of the territory, so long as that status is decided in a genuine exercise of self-determination.  

At present, the Western Sahara is a non-self governing territory. Under international law, the economic resources of a non-self governing territory may only be exploited for the benefit of the people of the territory, on their behalf or in consultation with their representatives.

The Government has consistently made clear its view that any exploration and exploitation activities that proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to natural resource activities in non-self governing territories. The Government would expect that any Irish company operating abroad would have due regard to the principles of international law and the rights of the inhabitants of the territory.

    
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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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