The UN secretariat has previously stated any further oil search in Western Sahara would be illegal. Polisario requested the UN Secretary General to intervene.
Published 01 July 2014
The letter below was last month sent from the Secretary-General of the Polisario Front to the Secretary-General of the UN.
H.E. Ban Ki-moon
19 June 2014
I am writing once again to bring to your attention the disturbing recent developments concerning plans to accelerate the exploration and exploitation of natural resources off the coast of Western Sahara. These illegal activities pose very serious challenges to efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, as mandated by the Security Council.
As you are aware, the Government of Morocco has recently renewed contracts with U.S. firm Kosmos Energy LLC and French firm Total S.A. to survey, explore and drill for oil and gas resources off the coast of Western Sahara. In December 2013 the companies signed joint Declarations of Principles with Morocco’s Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) which claim that the activities being planned or undertaken will be conducted in accordance with international law. Kosmos Energy LLC has subsequently announced plans to begin exploration drilling in the so-called Cap Boujdour block as early as the fourth quarter of 2014.
Given these worrying developments, it is incumbent on the Frente POLISARIO to lay out its position on the question of the exploration for seabed petroleum in occupied Western Sahara. The attached position statement has been sent directly to the two companies, and is being forwarded to you for your information.
As an illegal occupier in Western Sahara, Morocco is not competent to enter into agreements of any kind with respect to Western Sahara’s natural resources, and any such agreements are without legal effect. Any exploration or exploitation of the Territory’s resources by Morocco and complicit foreign governments or companies violates the Saharawi people’s permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.
As you are aware, according to a legal opinion provided by the UN Legal Counsel to the UN Security Council in 2002 on the question of the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara, if any further exploration or exploitation of Western Sahara’s 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. Indeed, following this opinion, Total S.A. decided in 2004 to withdraw from its operations in Western Sahara, while U.S. company Kerr-McGee withdrew in 2006, following the decision by the Norwegian Government Petroleum Fund to divest its interests in the company, noting at the time that Kerr-McGee’s presence in Western Sahara constituted “a particularly serious violation of fundamental ethical norms.”
The Frente POLISARIO, as the recognized representatives of the Sahrawi people and a party to the political process being facilitated by your Personal Envoy, has repeatedly made clear to your office, to the UN Security Council and directly to the companies concerned that any proposed activities that do not have the prior consent of the Saharawi people or their legitimate political representatives, the Frente POLISARIO, is a clear violation of international law and risks further action by the Saharawi people, including the pursuit of legal avenues, to protect their resources and seek reparations for any unauthorized activities. We have also repeatedly made clear that the current activities are not in accordance with the wishes of the Sahrawi people.
Current efforts to accelerate petroleum development in the waters off Western Sahara are concerning not only because of their illegality, but also because they undermine the efforts of your Personal Envoy to find a mutually acceptable political solution which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
We welcome your reference to the above-mentioned legal opinion in paragraph 12 of your recent report to the Security Council (S/2014/258), as well as your call upon all relevant actors in paragraph 97 of the report to “recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount.”
Given that Morocco appears and the companies concerned are intent on continuing to move ahead with plans to begin exploration drilling, we respectfully request your urgent personal engagement to ensure that these actions are ceased as they will hinder the work of Ambassador Ross to find a solution to a conflict that is a major obstacle to regional peace, security and economic integration in the Maghreb, and which continues to impose unspeakable hardship both on the Saharawis living under occupation in the territory as well as on a generation of Saharawi refugees that have lived in exile for nearly 40 years.
We also request that you call upon Morocco and the companies concerned to immediately desist from any further illegal activities with respect to Western Sahara’s natural resources.
Thank you in advance for your urgent attention to this matter.
Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Secretary General of POLISARIO Front
Cc. Mr. Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara
Ambassador Christopher Ross, Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara
Attachment: Statement of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in the matter of the exploration for seabed petroleum in occupied Western Sahara and in response to the February 2014 statement of Kosmos Energy Ltd.