The news service African Energy, published in its latest issue 7 November 2013, a story on the Kosmos Energy's plans for oil exploration offshore Western Sahara, and their new partnership with Cairn Energy. Kosmos plans to speed up the oil exploration in Western Sahara even though the UN questions the legality of such operations. The part of Western Sahara where Kosmos is planning to drill has been occupied by Morocco since 1975.
“It’s not up to Morocco or the oil companies to decide the territory’s status, it needs the referendum,” said one regional analyst interviewed in the article.
Kosmos senior vice-president William Hayes told African Energy, that exploration was in its early stages and, if a commercial discovery is made, any production was a long way off.
Hayes insisted to African Energy that “Not only is exploration legal, but responsible resource development has the potential to create significant long-term social and economic benefits for the people of Western Sahara”.
There were no indications in the article whether Kosmos has taken any steps to seek the consent of the people of Western Sahara. Taking the Saharawi people's wishes into account is a prerequisite for it being in line with international law, according to the UN. To the contrary, African Energy interviewed a representative of the liberation movement Frente Polisario, stating that Kosmos’ plans are in violation of the wishes of the people of the territory.
Read the UN legal opinion from 2002 here outlining how further oil exploration would be in violation of international law if it follows the track that Kosmos is now taking. Kosmos is carrying out the exploration in partnership with Morocco. No states in the world recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the territory, and the International Court of Justice has stated that Morocco's and Mauritania's claims to the territory are groundless.
The Kosmos vice-president stated to African Energy that “it would take six to seven years to bring any discovery on stream, which would allow time to work out with both sides how the benefits would be shared.”
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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