Western Sahara president urges help from UN to stop the EU
The president of the Western Sahara republic urges UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon for assistance to stop the EU in the plundering of Western Sahara. The EU is considering prolonging the fisheries in the occupied territories in violation of central UN principles and a key UN legal opinion.
Mohamed Abdelaziz, the President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, on 14 February called on Ban ki-moon to intervene immediately prevent the EU from violating international law.
"Exploitation by EU vessels of Western Sahara’s fisheries resources, without prior consultation with, and the informed consent of, the representatives of the Saharawi people is in direct conflict with the non-derogable right of the Saharawi people to exercise sovereignty over their natural resources. Such activities are therefore in violation of international law, including international human rights law and the relevant principles of the Charter of the United Nations", president Abdelaziz stated to the UN official.
Below is the full text of the letter
H.E. Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General United Nations
14 February 2011 Your Excellency, As negotiations between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco enter into an intensified phase under the stewardship of your Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Ambassador Christopher Ross, I must bring to your urgent attention the plans announced on 11 February 2011 by the European Commission to extend arrangements with Morocco to exploit illegally the fisheries resources off the coast of Western Sahara. If brought to fruition, it would negatively impact the political process which Ambassador Ross has worked hard to re-energise, and to which the Security Council and many other UN Member States have pledged their support.
General Assembly resolution 65/109 (‘Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories’), which reaffirms the right of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories to the ‘enjoyment of their natural resources and the right to dispose those resources in their best interests’. I recall that this same resolution requests that you use ‘all means at [your] disposal to inform world public opinion of any activity that affects the exercise of the right of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination in conformity with the Charter and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)’.
On 11 February 2011, the European Commission announced a proposal - to be considered later this week by the Council of the European Union - to extend, for a temporary period of one year, the Protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and financial contribution (the ‘Protocol’) under the 2005 Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco (the ‘FPA’). The Protocol, which is due to expire on 27 February 2011, sets out the technical details and conditions governing the fishing privileges granted to EU vessels in exchange for an annual financial contribution of €36.1 million paid by the European Community to Morocco.
The FPA and its Protocol create fishing rights for EU vessels throughout the ‘Moroccan fishing zone’, which is defined in Article 2(a) of the FPA as ‘the waters falling within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco’. The Protocol is conveniently silent, however, on the southern extremity of the fishing zone. Consistent with the finding of the International Court of Justice in 1975 that no ties of territorial sovereignty exist between Morocco and Western Sahara, no country in the world has ever recognised Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara. As a legal matter, Morocco therefore has not and cannot claim or seek to exercise sovereign rights in the waters adjacent to the coast of Western Sahara, nor can it extend its fisheries zone into that area. It is therefore illegal for the European Union to seek to rely on arrangements with Morocco to fish Western Sahara’s waters.
Furthermore, the Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a full and founding member of the African Union, led by the Frente POLISARIO, declared an Exclusive Economic Zone (‘EEZ’) in the waters adjacent to the Territory of Western Sahara on 21 January 2009. This declaration was communicated to the diplomatic missions of all UN Member States in New York, and all EU Member States in Brussels on 22 January 2009. The declaration was also communicated to your office in accordance with the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982), and was subsequently noted in your Report on the situation concerning Western Sahara in April 2009 (UN Doc. S/2009/200, paragraph 4).
Despite the above, it has been confirmed by the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs that, since the entry into force of the FPA and its Protocol on 28 February 2007, Morocco and EU Member States have been granting fishing licences and permits to EU-flagged vessels pursuant to the EU-Morocco FPA in order to allow them, knowingly, to fish in the waters adjacent to Western Sahara.
In response to the declaration by the SADR of its EEZ in January 2009, the European Parliament sought an opinion from its Legal Service on the legality of fishing by EU-flagged vessels in Western Sahara’s waters. Drawing on a legal opinion provided to the Security Council by the UN Legal Counsel in January 2002 relating to the exploration and exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources (UN Doc. S/2002/161), the European Parliament’s Legal Service found that ‘compliance with international law requires that economic activities related to the natural resources of a Non-Self-Governing Territory are carried out for the benefits of the people of such Territory and in accordance to their wishes’ (Parliamentary Legal Service Opinion SJ-0269/09 of 13 July 2009, paragraph 27). The Legal Service concluded that, in the absence of evidence that these conditions have or will be satisfied in consultation with Morocco, it is ‘strongly recommendable’ that the European Community either suspend the agreement or apply it ‘in such a way that EU-flagged vessels are excluded from the exploitation of the waters of Western Sahara.’(Paragraph 34)
In a series of letters forwarded to the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs (including letters of 1 March and 16 November 2010) and diplomatic notes sent to EU Member States in Brussels (Diplomatic Notes of 23 January 2009 and 31 January 2011), the Frente POLISARIO, on behalf of the Saharawi people, has reiterated that fishing by European vessels in Western Sahara’s waters pursuant to an arrangement with the Kingdom of Morocco is contrary to the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara. The people of Western Sahara and their political representatives have never been consulted in relation to the activities of EU-flagged fishing vessels in the waters adjacent to Western Sahara. Nor have the Saharawi people or their representatives received any benefits flowing from EU fishing activities licensed under the FPA.
Exploitation by EU vessels of Western Sahara’s fisheries resources, without prior consultation with, and the informed consent of, the representatives of the Saharawi people is in direct conflict with the non-derogable right of the Saharawi people to exercise sovereignty over their natural resources. Such activities are therefore in violation of international law, including international human rights law and the relevant principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Any extension of the present arrangements under the FPA without expressly excluding Western Sahara’s waters from its geographical scope would not only amount to a knowing continuation of a breach of international law, but would also risk further destabilising an already volatile situation in Western Sahara. This in turn would have the effect of undermining ongoing efforts by the UN, under your good offices, to find a peaceful solution to the dispute which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, a process which the EU and the UN claim to support. The Frente POLISARIO notes in this regard that the issue of Western Sahara’s natural resources is currently under discussion in talks between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco under the auspices of your Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Ambassador Christopher Ross. Illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources at this time has the effect of prejudicing and undermining those discussions.
Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the Saharawi people, I call on you to intervene immediately with the Member States of the European Union on this matter. I look forward to your cooperation and proactive engagement with all Member States to ensure the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and their permanent sovereignty and sovereign rights with respect to the natural resources of Western Sahara.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Mohamed Abdelaziz Secretary-General of the Frente POLISARIO President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.
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