Searching for oil in Western Sahara is in violation of international law as long as the people of the territory do not wish it to take place. That was the conclusion of a UN legal opinion in 2002. The people of Western Sahara vehemently protest Morocco’s signing of oil agreements in the territory.
Yet, another small player is now seeking to enter that business. That company, Xplorer PLC, announced in a release 21 July 2015 that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the minor oil company Teredo to acquire 'a significant working interest' in the offshore block Boujdour Offshore Shallow.
In order to attract interested partners to their company, Xplorer PLC announced that the block is found within Morocco. That is factually incorrect.
No state in the world recognise the licence area lying within Morocco. The territory is under illegal Moroccan occupation. The UN is trying to negotiate a solution between the two parties of the conflict. Morocco has never even laid maritime claim over the area that the block is located in. The UN deals with the territory as the last remaining colony in Africa, and the International Court of Justice found Morocco's claims groundless.
Xplorer had apparently notified already 18 December 2014 that it was in dialogue over the acquisition of a stake in a block “in Morocco”. On 4 June 2015, Xplorer PLC announced to the market that it had secured the necessary £99,000, but that more capital was needed. Xplorer PLC has been short on capital and its stock was in December 2014 temporarily suspended from the London Stock Exchange.
“Western Sahara Resource Watch urges investors to not secure further capital to Xplorer as long as they are planning to undertake this operation. The asset that they have announced is not located in the country where they claim it to be. Such a licence is highly unethical, contributing to prolong the sufferings of the people of the territory Western Sahara”, stated Erik Hagen of WSRW.
“What interest would Morocco have in entering into any peace agreement as long as they sign oil agreements offshore the territory it occupies?”, Hagen asked.
Half the population has sought refuge abroad following the Moroccan invasion. The Saharawis living under Moroccan control are subject to severe human rights abuses. Morocco refuses to cooperate for the organisation of a referendum which the UN has called for.
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.