The following was stated by Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, in Irish parliament on 21 April 2011.
The Government supports 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’s view is 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. I am aware that San Leon Energy is engaged in exploration activities in Morocco and Western Sahara. These projects have not yet advanced to exploitation stage. I would expect any Irish company operating in the Western Sahara to ensure that any economic benefit derived from its activities benefited all the people concerned and in accordance with the principles of international law.
The statement came as a reply to the following question from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an Irish corporation (San Leon Oil Company) is one of only a few remaining oil companies that continue to operate illegally in the western Sahara; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
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.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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