The UK has said a new European fisheries agreement with Morocco will have to be closely monitored to ensure it does not break international law.
Some Governments and NGOs have expressed concern that the agreement, reached by EU fisheries Ministers in Brussels today, could prejudge the status of the Western Sahara and prejudice the United Nations talks aimed at resolving the long standing dispute.
The new agreement gives EU fishing vessels rights of access to fisheries resources off Morocco and the disputed territory of the Western Sahara.
UK fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw said: "We are content with this agreement on fisheries and conservation grounds but we were concerned not to affect the difficult talks taking place on the status of the Western Sahara.
"Our legal advice is that nothing in this Agreement does that, but we expect the Committee set up to monitor the Agreement to ensure that Morocco's obligations under international law, are observed and that the benefits of it accrue to all the people of the region, including the people of the Western Sahara. "
Mr Bradshaw continued: The UK did not sign up to the declaration because we did not believe it was needed. Our legal advice is that the agreement does not prejudice the status of the Western Sahara. What is important is that it is now closely monitored to ensure that remains the case. The UK's policy on the Western Sahara has not changed. We still believe it should be resolved through the United Nations process.
Under the terms of the EU-Morocco Agreement, Euros 13.5 million, more than a third of the EU financial contribution, is to be used for the implementation of a national fisheries policy, based on responsible fishing and on the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources. These terms reflect the improvements to third party agreements for issues such as openness and sustainability, improvements that were championed by the UK. Last Updated ( Tuesday, 23 May 2006 )
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