Western Sahara president asks UN to intervene against San Leon Energy
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“We urgently request that the Secretary-General condemn these activities, which are in clear violation of international law", the President of the Western Sahara Republic wrote in a letter to Ban Ki-Moon.
Published 20 July 2015


President of the Western Sahara Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, has urged the immediate intervention of the UN to stop UK/Irish company San Leon Energy from drilling in partnership with Morocco in the occupied territory of Western Sahara.

“We urgently request that the Secretary-General condemn these activities, which are in clear violation of international law, and call on Morocco and complicit foreign companies to stop the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara,” the President of the Republic in a letter Thursday to UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon.

“If these measures are not taken, then the illegal exploration and exploitation of the Territory’s resources will further undermine the UN’s long-standing efforts to reach a peaceful solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, as required by numerous UN Security Council resolutions,” added the President of the Republic.

The letter was first published on the news service Sahara Press Service.

Following is the full text of the letter:

“The Honorable Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary-General
United Nations
760 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

BirLahlou, 16 July 2015

Your Excellency,
On behalf of the Sahrawi Government and Polisario Front, I am writing to draw your attention to the most recent development in Morocco’s long record of illegal exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara.

An Irish-based company, San Leon Energy, in cooperation with Morocco’s state-owned Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) plan to commence drilling in August 2015 at the onshore Tarfaya well, El Aaiun-4, in the occupied territory of Western Sahara to determine if there are commercial quantities of hydrocarbon resources in the area.

These activities, pursuant to licenses granted by Morocco’s ONHYM, constitute a serious violation of international law and of the permanent sovereignty of the Saharawi people over their own natural resources, and run the risk of undermining any new efforts by the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Mr. Christopher Ross, to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in accordance with United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions.

Western Sahara is not part of Morocco. It is a Non-Self-Governing Territory under the UN Charter awaiting a process of decolonisation. Morocco’s presence in the Territory is the result of an illegal invasion and subsequent illegal occupation as confirmed in UN General Assembly resolutions 34/37 (1979) and 35/19 (1980) that assert that Morocco is the occupying power of Western Sahara, and that the UN has never recognized it as administering power of the territory.

As an occupying power, the Kingdom of Morocco and its government agencies and corporations have no legal competence to enter into agreements and/or grant exploration and development licenses with respect to Western Sahara’s natural resources. The International Court of Justice confirmed in 1975 that there are no sovereign ties between Morocco and Western Sahara, and in fact, no country has recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over any part of Western Sahara, thus further underlining the illegality of any attempt by Morocco to enter into agreements with foreign interests for the purpose of exploiting Western Sahara’s natural resources.

As a recognized Non-Self Governing Territory under the UN Charter, the people of Western Sahara have the sovereign right to control their natural resources, including as affirmed by the UN Legal Opinion of 20 January 2002, provided to the UN Security Council, in response to its request for an opinion on the legality of Moroccan efforts to enter into contracts with foreign entities for the exploration of the mineral resources in Western Sahara:

“…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 applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self Governing Territories.” (UN Doc.S/2006/161)

Neither Morocco nor San Leon Energy has sought to contact, inform or seek authorization for its ongoing and proposed activities from the SADR Government as the only recognized sovereign authority of the Territory and representative of the Saharawi people of Western Sahara. Without seeking the consent of the people of Western Sahara and ensuring that the planned activities will directly benefit the people in the Territory, San Leon Energy has failed to satisfy the basic requirement of international law on the exploitation of the natural resources of a Non Self-Governing Territory.

The ongoing exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara by Morocco and complicit foreign entities is in breach of the Saharawi people’s permanent sovereignty over their natural resources, and the sacred trust owed to them under Article 73 of the UN Charter to ensure that the interests of the inhabitants of a Non-Self-Governing Territory are paramount. To this end, the SADR Government, as the internationally recognized representative of the Saharawi people, reserves the right to use all available means, including legal avenues, to prevent and seek reparation in respect of any unauthorized activities relating to the natural resources of Western Sahara.

Given the clarity of the applicable law on this matter, and in light of the detrimental impact that the actions of Morocco and San Leon Energy could have on the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, we urgently requests that the Secretary-General condemn these activities, which are in clear violation of international law, and call on Morocco and complicit foreign companies to stop the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara.

We believe it is the responsibility of the Members of the United Nations to fulfill their obligations under Chapter XI of the UN Charter, and for the UN to take all necessary measures to stop the illegal plunder of the natural resources of Western Sahara. If these measures are not taken, then the illegal exploration and exploitation of the Territory’s resources will further undermine the UN’s long-standing efforts to reach a peaceful solution that will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, as required by numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

I will be grateful if you would transmit a copy of this letter to the UN Security Council.

Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Mohammed Abdelaziz
Secretary-General of the Frente POLISARIO
President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic” (SPS)

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