Early in October, the branch of Western Sahara Resource Watch in Belgium discovered that a Belgian subsidiary of BASF had imported phosphates from occupied Western Sahara.
On 22nd of October, German former MEP Margot Kessler, together with Western Sahara Resource Watch, wrote to BASF, asking for a clarification regarding the imports of phosphates. The letter requested information on the scope of the BASF imports.
In a reply yesterday, 30 October 2008, the company confirmed having received this shipment, but said they do not expect further imports.
"For the time being, this was an isolated replacement delivery from this territory which we do not expect to be repeated in the future. ", wrote Mrs. Anne Forst from BASF sustainability center in a mail to WSRW.
"A part of BASF's phosphate demand is covered by Moroccan phosphate delivered by Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP). OCP has been a reliable supplier of phosphate from mines in the Kingdom of Morocco for over 20 years. In spring 2008, OCP contacted us because of a supply shortage at the Moroccan mine from which BASF usually receives the phosphate. OCP offered a temporary replacement order with phosphate in an alternative quality from a different mine operated by OCP in the Western Sahara region, which we accepted", Forst wrote.
The BASF representative says that the OCP has assured in an "expert opinion" that the OCPs operations in Western Sahara are to be beneficial locally. OCP has been running operations in occupied Western Sahara since shortly after Moroccan forces moved into Western Sahara on November 6th 1975.
"OCP provided an expert opinion which was able to demonstrate to BASF that OCP's operations in the Western Sahara are beneficial through job creation for the local people, investments in the local infrastructure, community engagement, and economic stimulus. We are fully confident that the operations of OCP at Boucraa and the purchase of the replacement delivery were consistent with international law.", Horst wrote.
Since taking over the plant in 1975, OCP has replaced most of the Sahrawi workers with Moroccan settlers, who have been moved into the territory in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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