In 2002, as the Boujdour licence offshore Western Sahara was issued to an oil company, the UN legal office stated that any further exploration would be in violation of international law if it is to the contrary of the wishes of the people of the territory.
In 2006, that licence was tranferred to Kosmos Energy, which is now planning to drill later this year. Kosmos Energy is currently undertaking seismic studies offshore Western Sahara - the last seismic round before the driling in the occupied territory will begin.
In a rare statement to the media, Kosmos opposes the UN legal opinion:
"Even though it’s a complicated situation, we think there is a right course here and that we are on it…. Morocco has the right to issue these [drilling] licenses", Kosmos Energy’s senior vice president William Hayes stated.
“We are not a bunch of guys in Dallas going rogue into the Western Sahara and hoping that everything works out, [...] We feel good about the knowledge base we’ve got, we understand the other side of the position, and we honest to God feel like we are doing the right thing in partnering with Morocco”, he said.
Numerous demonstrations have been taking place against Kosmos over the last months. Some have been injured by Moroccan police upon trying to protest against the company. Exile government has on numerous occasions protested the exploitation plans, both to the UN and to the company itself.
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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.