"During the preparatory work on the agreement, which was decided through qualified vote, Finland and certain other states, pointed to the fact than the Western Sahara territorial waters not had specifically been excluded from the agreement’s area of application. Also for years to come, Finland finds it important that international law be respected upon the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara", stated Finland's minister of Foreign Affairs in Finnish parliament, 8 May 2009.
Question asked the in the Finnish parliament to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alexander Stubb 21 April, answered 8 May.
Mr Speaker of Parliament,
In accordance with 27 § of the Parliament Working Order, you have forwarded to me, as the Minister concerned, the following written question SS 332/2009 rd, put by the Member of Parliament Jacob Söderman, Social Democrat:
Is the government aware of the fact that Morocco is exploiting the natural resources of the territory of Western Sahara without the consent of the people of the territory, and that Morocco even in other ways violate the human rights of the people? Is the government aware that the European Union has not acted upon this in appropriate manners during its work to extend the trade relations with Morocco, and how will the government act so that the right to self-determination for the Sahrawi people shall be secured, and that their rights to their natural resources, which is a part of this right to self-determination, still will be set as a goal within the framework of the EU?
As an answer to this question, I say the following:
Western Sahara is one of the last territories awaiting decolonisation and without self-governance, in the meaning as established in Chapter 11 of the UN Charter, referring to territories with a recognised right to self-determination. Even though Morocco do not have an official position as the country’s administering power, the country’s action can be seen in the light of the principles for administering powers, which is a lot similar to the rule of law for occupations.
The International Court of Justice declared in an advisory opinion in 1975 that Morocco did not have any legal claims to the territory of Western Sahara. The UN Security Council has in resolution 380(1975) demanded that Morocco withdraws from the occupied territory. From 1991 onwards, the UN’s MINURSO forces have been operating in the territory. International law does not prescribe any completely unambiguous answers to the question of what kind of economic activity that can take place in Western Sahara. The question has been brought up in an opinion by the UN Legal Counsel in 2002 (S/2002/161).
In the United Nations Finland has supported and supports decolonization as well as new independent countries' sovereignty over natural resources. In the Western Sahara issue Finland gives support for a solution reached through negotiations between the parties in accordance with Security Council resolutions. The result should be a fair, lasting political settlement by the parties and as a result self-determination for the inhabitants of Western Sahara.
In Finland's view, all parties in the Western Sahara issue and other players in the area, at this stage should put particular focus on complying with international law. Under international law, Morocco is to ensure public order, security and welfare of Western Sahara. Until the status of Western Sahara elucidated, Morocco should refrain from taking any action on natural resources that are contrary to the interests of local people. Morocco can use the Sahrawi renewable natural resources of the Sahrawi residents' best interests and in consultation with them, but should adopt a cautious approach to the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources.
In the EU, the exploitation of the natural resources in Western Sahara has been discussed in relation to the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement. During the preparatory work on the agreement, which was decided through qualified vote, Finland and certain other states, pointed to the fact than the Western Sahara territorial waters not had specifically been excluded from the agreement’s area of application. Also for years to come, Finland finds it important that international law be respected upon the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara.
When it comes to the human rights, Finland expects that the rights of the people of Western Sahara be respected. Finland underlines the importance of confidence building measures within the framework of the UN refugee organisation UNHCR and MINURSO operation’s mandate, and the continuity of these measures. 2007, Finland channelled humanitarian aid through the World Food Programme (WFP) to the refugee camps in the area, altogether 500.000 euros. 20080, Finland supported the UNHCR’s confidence building measures with 300.000 euros. Finland also participates actively in the talks between the EU and the North African states, e.g. in the dialogue on human rights and democracy, with is an important part of the framework for the cooperation between the EU and the partnership countries. On Finnish initiative, the EU has again brought up the importance of confidence building measures in the dialogue with Morocco, e.g. family visits and the opening of a road connecting the refugee camps in Tindouf in Algeria with the territory of Western Sahara administered by Morocco.
Helsinki, 8 May 2009 Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Stubb
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