”Our opinion? Ask the Sahrawis”, Spain says
The Spanish embassy in Oslo does not wish to respond to the question whether the word “wishes” is mentioned in the conclusion of the UN 2002 legal opinion. In order to get an answer of how Spain interprets the UN document, a national Norwegian student organisation was referred to the Saharawi delegation in Madrid.
Published: 23.12 - 2010 14:23Printer version    
[SAIH:] Does the Spanish government agree that the word “wishes” is to be found in the conclusion of the UN Legal Opinion?
[Embassy:] I am pleased to send you this message on behalf of Ambassador Mr. Santiago Salas, in response to your letter sent on December 1st 2010.
The Spanish Embassy in Norway will remain open to any communication sent by SAIH, and will certainly convey its content to the relevant Spanish Authorities.
As for an exchange of information on this or any other political matter, the most appropriate and effective channel is probably the official Delegation of the Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic in Madrid, established to facilitate such kind of cooperation.
[SAIH:] Thank you for your reply. However I must say that I don’t understand why you refer us to Saharaui delegation in Madrid? SAIH, which is a Norwegian student organization does not have any ties with the Sahraui delegation in Spain.
[Embassy:]By referring you to the Delegation of the Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic in Madrid I am not assuming your organization has any links with it. Your letter deals with a political issue that concerns the interests of the Saharahui people, and Spain considers the Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic as the legitimate representative of such interests.
Does the Spanish government agree that the word “wishes” is to be found in the conclusion of the UN Legal Opinion?

This was the very simple question raised by the Norwegian student organisation SAIH to the Spanish embassy in Oslo recently. The student group asked the question since both Spain and the European Commission seems to misinterpret the UN text, in an effort to defend the controversial EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement covering the occupied territory.

However, in order to get a reply to how the Spanish government reads the UN document, the student organization was asked to contact the delegation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in Madrid. It appears from the communication that the Spanish embassy does not have - or does not want to explain - an own interpretation of the UN document. “Your letter deals with a political issue that concerns the interests of the Saharahui people, and Spain considers the Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic as the legitimate representative of such interests“, the embassy stated in a letter to SAIH last week.

It is thus not yet known whether the Spanish government has yet discovered the word “wishes” in the 2002 UN document. Yesterday, the author of the opinion, former UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs called the EU interpretation of his text "astonishing". The Commission has replaced the phrase "wishes and interests of the people of Western Sahara" with different combinations of the words "needs", "benefits" and "interests" of the local population. To get an answer to the questions  of benefits, the Commission has asked Morocco for a report, something which the former UN Under-Secretary General in a recent article calls "not acceptable".

The word "wishes" refers to the right of self-determination over the natural resources of the territory. This right is affirmed by over 100 UN resolutions. The wishes of the Sahrawis were never taken into account when the current fisheries agreement between EU and Morocco was signed.

Read the e-mail correspondence between the Norwegian student group and the embassy to the right, and a complete version of the initial question to Spain below.

H.E., Ambassador D. Santiago Salas Collantes
Embassy of Spain in Oslo
Halvdan Svartes gate 13
0268 Oslo

Oslo, 1 December 2010

Dear Ambassador D. Santiago Salas Collantes

Regarding Spain’s interpretation of the conclusion of UN document, Western Sahara

The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) has worked on decolonisation issues since our organisation was founded in 1961. The last decade and a half, we have followed the issue of the decolonisation of Western Sahara.

SAIH has been in contact with the Association of Sahrawis in Norway, who recently asked a question regarding Spain’s reading of the conclusion of the UN Legal Opinion from 2002. As the temporary reply from your embassy to the Association of Sahrawis left it unclear whether you will respond to the question, we would like to ask you the same question.

As you probably know, the conclusion of the opinion is that “if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law”.

However, both Spain and the European Commission seem to misrepresent the Legal Opinion, by ignoring all references to the Saharawi people, by replacing the word “people” with “population” and by omitting the word “wishes” mentioned in the opinion’s conclusion.

corell_conclusion_250.jpgIn stead of quoting the conclusion of the opinion, the Commission always refers to out-of-context segments from other parts of the document. You find the complete opinion on this link: www.arso.org/Olaeng.pdf. We also add a picture of the Legal Opinion’s concluding paragraph to the right, to make sure you see where the conclusion is.

The EU’s misuse of the UN opinion has been highly criticised by the author of the text, former UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Mr. Hans Corell, who stated “as a European I feel embarrassed” and that it is ”…obvious that an agreement…that does not make a distinction between the waters adjacent to Western Sahara and the waters adjacent to the territory of Morocco would violate international law”. The European Parliament’s Legal Service came to the same conclusion recently.

On this basis, we look forward to hear your answer to one very simple question:

Does the Spanish government agree that the word “wishes” is to be found in the conclusion of the UN Legal Opinion?

We would prefer if you can answer to our organisation by a simple yes or a no, and look forward to hear from you as quickly as possible. A reply can be sent to the email address below.


Runar Myrnes Balto
President, SAIH




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