Answer to written question 2006/07:1622 18 September 2007
Question: Oil exploration offshore Western Sahara.
Answer: Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt
Agneta Berliner has asked whether I am planning to make any efforts for a renewed analysis of international law regarding the issue of natural resources in Western Sahara, considering that Sweden has defined Western Sahara as an occupied territory.
The Swedish government’s position when it comes to understanding international law in this matter is clear. The area we today call Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony Spanish Sahara, is occupied by Morocco. We base this conclusion on the decision made by the International Court of Justice in 1975: that Morocco has no legal basis for its claim to Western Sahara.
This means that Morocco has a duty to maintain general order and public life and welfare, and that Morocco has no right to exploit the natural resources in Western Sahara for its own benefit. Exploitation or usage of renewable resources for the benefit of the people of Western Sahara can be accepted according to international law. However, when it comes to non-renewable resources, great caution must be made.
The principle of peoples’ right to self-determination prescribes that the people of Western Sahara should be able to influence the way such exploitation is being carried out, and it must benefit them economically. The UN’s legal office has in its statement (S/2002/161) from 2002 established that further exploration or exploitation of the oil in Western Sahara, in violation of the principles of peoples’ right to self-determination, is not compatible with international law. In this regard, it is important to underline that the agreements which the legal office analysed concerned exploration, not actual exploitation of oil.
The above conclusion lays the basis of the government’s position. I do not therefore see any reason for a renewed analysis of the kind asked for by Agneta Berliner.
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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