Sahrawi Republic protests Kosmos and Fugro engagements
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Sahrawi Arabic Democratic Republic sent 15 January 2009 a letter to Kosmos Energy demanding the company to terminates its operations in occupied Western Sahara. On 13 January 2009 a similar letter was sent to Dutch-Norwegian seismic survey company Fugro-Geoteam, which started its exploration for Kosmos in January.
Published: 16.01 - 2009 09:46Printer version    
15 January 2009

Mr. James C. Musselman
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Kosmos Energy, LLC
8401 N. Central Expressway
Suite 280
Dallas , Texas 75225

United States

Dear Mr. Musselman,

Further to my letter to you of 16 June 2006 regarding the signature by Kosmos Energy LLC (‘Kosmos’) of a Moroccan license purporting to authorize petroleum exploration in areas offshore of the territory of Western Sahara, I am writing again in response to news that a vessel operated by Fugro-Geoteam, a Norwegian-based unit of Dutch oil services group Fugro, has been engaged by Kosmos to conduct seismic surveys off the coast of Western Sahara.    

As I noted in my previous letter to you – to which I have yet to receive a response – these activities are in direct violation of international law.  Morocco is not recognized by the UN as an administering power in Western Sahara, and therefore has no right to authorize or undertake activities related to the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara.  

The International Court of Justice confirmed in 1975 that there is no tie of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco .  Morocco ’s presence in the territory is the result of an illegal invasion in 1975 and the ensuing occupation.  A string of UN Security Council resolutions has deplored the invasion, and called for Morocco to withdraw from the territory.

No country recognizes Morocco ’s sovereignty over any part of the territory of Western Sahara.  On the contrary, more than seventy countries have recognized the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as the sovereign authority over the territory of Western Sahara.  The SADR was admitted as a member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1982, and is a full founding member state of the African Union (AU).

At the request of the UN Security Council, the then-United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Legal Counsel, Mr Hans Corell, issued a legal opinion in January 2002 relating to the legality of actions taken by Moroccan authorities to enter into contracts with foreign entities for the exploration of mineral resources in Western Sahara .  In the opinion, Mr Corell found that if

‘exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories’. (UN Document S/2006/161)

It has come to our attention that Kosmos Energy has engaged Fugro-Geoteam to conduct seismic data acquisition activities, and that those activities are currently underway.  The SADR, as the recognized sovereign authority for Western Sahara , has jurisdiction over, as well as the exclusive right to regulate and authorize, marine scientific research within its territorial waters.  It also has the discretion to withhold its consent for such activities where those activities have ‘direct significance’ for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, both living and non-living.

To my knowledge, no attempt has been made by Kosmos Energy to contact, inform or seek authorization for the aforementioned seismic data acquisition activities from or by the SADR as the rightful sovereign authority and representative of the people of Western Sahara .  If such efforts had been made, your company would be aware that its activities are in direct conflict with the rights granted by the SADR Petroleum Authority to other commercial interests pursuant to petroleum licenses entered into in 2005.  Further information regarding these licenses is available at http://www.sadroilandgas.com.

Finally, I note the public commitment of Kosmos to carrying out its business according to the highest international business standards.  This commitment is seriously jeopardized by ongoing activities in Western Sahara ’s waters.  Over recent years, a number of companies operating in Western Sahara pursuant to commercial arrangements with the Kingdom of Morocco have withdrawn their operations.  For example, French company Total withdrew in 2004, as did Kerr-McGee in 2006 following the decision by the Norwegian Government Petroleum Fund to divest its interests in the company.  In doing so, the Fund noted that Kerr-McGee’s presence in Western Sahara constituted ‘a particularly serious violation of fundamental ethical norms’.

In light of the above, it is my responsibility to inform you that the Government of the SADR, including the SADR Petroleum Authority, reserves the right to use all available means, including legal avenues, to prevent and seek reparation in respect of any unauthorized activities relating to the natural resources of Western Sahara.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Yours faithfully,
Emhamed Khadad,

SADR Petroleum Authority
Advisor to the HE Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of the SADR.

Member of the Polisario leadership.

cc.       Mr Hans Meyer
Managing Director
Fugro-Geoteam




14 January 2009

Mr. Hans Meyer
Managing director
Fugro-Geoteam
Hoffsveien 1C
N-0275 Oslo
Norway

Dear Mr. Meyer,

Seismic Acquisition in Western Sahara (SADR)

The Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has learnt that Fugro-Geoteam is involved in seismic acquisition offshore our territory.

As you would be aware, Western Sahara is currently illegally occupied by Morocco . Western Sahara is formally classified by the United Nations as a ‘Non self-governing territory’, which means that it is still waiting for a process of decolonisation through a UN process.

After a long and bloody war that lasted 17 years Moroccan and the Saharawi independence movement agreed to a UN sponsored cease-fire 1991 as part of a Settlement Plan that should have culminated in referendum of self-determination in 1992. However, the referendum has not taken place yet due to Morocco ’s obstructions.

Morocco has not only obstructed the UN peace process and violated the UN resolutions and the agreements it signed with the Polisario Front but has also continuously abused human rights in the occupied Territories of Western Sahara according to recent Human Rights Watch Report of 19 December 2008: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/19/human-rights-western-sahara-and-tindouf-refugee-camps-0

The award of exploration licenses over the territorial waters of Western Sahara by Morocco has been condemned by the SADR as an illegal act aimed at legitimising Morocco’s illegal occupation of our country and plundering our resources. Such deals are unacceptable to the Saharawi people and are considered as highly provocative and indeed a violation of the current cease-fire arrangements. Furthermore, the involvement of foreign companies in Western Sahara is profoundly unethical and immoral because the deals are made with Morocco which is an absolute monarchy that has a bad human rights record and has been involved in acts of aggression against a neighbouring country.  

In 2002, the Under-Secretary-General of Legal Affairs, Mr Hans Correll, issued a legal opinion to the Security Council on the matter in which he reaffirmed that Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara . Mr Correll stated that if exploration and exploitation of the oil resources of the Territory “were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories”. During a conference held in December 2008 in South Africa Mr. Correll reaffirmed his opinion of 2002 and added referring to agreements made with Morocco that it is "obvious that an agreement…that does not make a distinction between the waters adjacent to Western Sahara and the waters adjacent to the territory of Morocco would violate international law": http://www.havc.se/res/SelectedMaterial/20081205pretoriawesternsahara1.pdf
Several companies that got involved in Western Sahara through deals made with Morocco have decided to withdraw amongst them for example Kerr McGee, Total and Baraka. Other companies have preferred to deal with the Saharawi republic and not engage in the exploitation of SADR resources until the Saharawi republic is admitted to the UN.

The Government of the SADR, which is a founding member of the African Union and recognised by over 80 Countries world-wide as the sovereign authority over the territory of Western Sahara , considers that the presence of Fugro-Geoteam in Western Sahara is illegal and highly unwarranted.

The Government of the SADR strongly urges Fugro-Geoteam to cease its illegal activities in Western Sahara immediately.

The Government of the SADR considers illegal any activities related to the exploration or exploitation of the natural resources of the SADR without its express authorization.  The Government of the SADR reserves the right to pursue legal action in respect of any such unauthorized activities.

It is worth noting that Western Sahara remains a conflict area and all foreign nations in order to safeguard the security and well- being of their citizens ought to discourage them from getting involved in the Territory until the resolution of the conflict. Foreign companies have a special duty not to involve their employees in a conflict zone. The companies should assume their responsibilities and end their presence in Western Sahara henceforth.

Yours truly,
Mohamed Salem Ould Salek
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic

    

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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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