Controversial Spanish-Moroccan business meeting to kickstart in occupied Western Sahara today.
Photo: Moroccan and Spanish trucks are regularly seen in the town of Dakhla, illegally exporting natural resources out of Western Sahara, without the consent of the Saharawi people. Photo @ellilorz
Today, a Spanish-Moroccan investment forum kicks off in Dakhla, a town located mid-coast of the part of Western Sahara that is under Moroccan military occupation.
The forum is an initiative of the Moroccan Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the regional council of Dakhla-Oued Eddahad, an administrative body instituted by the Moroccan authorities in the occupied territory.
“We condemn Spanish businesses and investors taking part in this forum that has the singular objective of whitewashing an illegal occupation”, says Sylvia Valentin, Chairwoman of Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW).
The UN General Assembly has condemned the Moroccan occupation of Dakhla and Western Sahara.
“Participating firms should be aware that they are but small pawns in a bigger ploy designed to benefit an occupying regime, not the interested firms: there is no legal framework in place that can be invoked to secure investments in the territory that do not have the consent of the sovereign people of the territory: the Saharawis”, Valentin told.
The investment forum was announced on 1 June and comes on the heels of a personal letter by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez Castejón to the king of Morocco, dated 14 March this year. In the letter, which came after 15 months of diplomatic rows and tension between the two neighbouring countries, the Spanish PM expressed his support for Morocco’s so-called autonomy plan for Western Sahara – the holy grail of Morocco’s foreign diplomacy. This particular plan does not offer the people of Western Sahara any other option than to accept a yet unspecified form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. As such, it goes against the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination – the right to freely determine the status of the land, thus also including e.g. independence as an option, as recognised by the International Court of Justice and as repeated in countless UN resolutions.
It should be noted that Morocco’s claim to sovereignty has been refuted by the International Court of Justice. Spanish PM Sanchez has been met with a heavy political backlash in Spain, with no political party willing to back his personal initiative, bar his own.
In return for Sanchez’ capitulation, Rabat allegedly promised concessions to Spain, in particular in relation to the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla. Yet three months on, none of these appear to be credibly materialising.
Spanish newspaper El Español reported in May this year that Morocco has also offered investment opportunities in Western Sahara in exchange for concessions in the Canary waters. The mineral-rich tropic seamount harboured in these waters has been a major point of contention between Spain and Morocco. Mount Tropic, an ancient marine volcano located approximately 250 miles southwest of the Canary Islands, lies to the west of Western Sahara - not Morocco - and houses one of the largest reserves of Tellurium, in addition to being considered a strategic reserve by the European Union.
Specifically, Morocco would have offered contracts to Spanish wind energy companies, a huge industrial terrain in Dakhla to facilitate export of products from Spain to Africa, licences to Spanish fisheries companies and hydrocarbon exploration contracts.
It is plausible that the investment forum in Dakhla should be viewed in that light.
Several Spanish companies are already present in the territory, most importantly Siemens Gamesa, which works in partnership with the Moroccan king's personal energy company.
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The following overview enlists stock-exchange registered companies currently operating in Western Sahara. Updated 23 May 2022.