- Occupied territories
- James Baker's secret visit
- Official visit to Venezuela
- King of Morocco's cousin and the Sahara
- Oil contracts : UN legal opinion
- Russia gets involved in finding a solution
- Prisoners of war
- Morocco off-shore
The situation in the occupied territories is beginning to interest Moroccan political parties.
The Reform and Development Party (PRD), led by Abderrahman El Cohen, has just carried out a tour from 18-21 January to Dakhla, Boujdour and El Ayoun. A delegation from the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS, ex-Communist) met "key individuals and associations representing civil society" on 26 January in El Ayoun. Discussions bore on the fate of defectors from the refugee camps near Tindouf, employment, the problems of the inhabitants of the Unity camps (transferred from Morocco to take part in the referendum), workers from Fos Boucraa, women, victims of detention and disappearance as well as families of detainees sentenced following the events in Smara. The Saharawis openly denounced fraud concerning government aid deflected to profiteers, and denounced the repressive and discriminatory methods of the authorities.
The new wali (governor), who withdrew financial benefit from 14,000 young people (the rate of unemployment is 25%), recently received a group of over 300 unemployed Saharawi graduates, who have been protesting for a long time wanting jobs. He offered to them training and work in small-scale fishing. The university graduates rejected the proposal, considering it as hidden incitement to emigrate to the Canaries. They also believe that small-scale fishing constitutes an ecological crime, threatening coastal marine wildlife with extinction by over-fishing.
James Baker made a visit on the 24th to El Ayoun to the headquarters of MINURSO accompanied by the Moroccan Minister of the Interior. He also had talks with Mohamed VI. Baker is reported to have traveled in a private jet owned by Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Washington, who also came along. The US Ambassador in Morocco apparently joined them on the trip to El Ayoun, but decided to remain on board.
The Saharawi President, Mohamed Abdelaziz carried out a two day official visit to Venezuela, where he was received by President Hugo Chavez, with whom he had lengthy talks on relations between the two countries and the situation of the peace plan. The Saharawi delegation was welcomed in the National Assembly by its President, William Lara, and had talks with members of the parliamentary friendship intergroup SADR-Venezuela. On 2 February, the Saharawi President was due to go to Nigeria.
Rumours of coup d'état attempt
According to Le Monde , taking up the story from the Moroccan press, the Moroccan DST (Interior secret service), could have tried to implicate the King's cousin, Prince Moulay Hicham in a plot. He is alleged to have been aiming to create an emirate in Western Sahara with the aid of part of the royal army. The interested party confirmed that he had been contacted twice in 2001 to get involved in the issue of Western Sahara, without any follow-up, adding that "the DST is becoming a political police. The king is their hostage."
UN - oil contracts
The UN Office of Legal Affairs on 29 January made its report on the legality, in the context of international law, of the contracts concerning the territory of Western Sahara signed by Morocco with foreign oil companies.
In a statement (Spanish), the Polisario Front representative at the UN writes that this opinion had brought a "historic" clarification on the nature of the conflict between Morocco and the Saharawi people, as well as on the character of the Moroccan presence in Western Sahara. The Office considers that the 1975 Madrid accords do not signify the transfer to Morocco of sovereignty over the territory, nor the title of administrating power. The international status of Western Sahara is that of a non-self governing territory.
Concerning the contracts for oil exploration in a non-autonomous territory, the Department holds that they would violate international law as soon the oil companies were actually exploiting the oil resources to the detriment of the interests of the people of Western Sahara. (see also Press release of the Polisario Mission for UK and Ireland, 02.02.02 )
At the end of discussions with Benaïssa, Moroccan minister of Foreign Affairs, on a visit to Russia, the head of Russian diplomacy clarified the position of his country on the question of Western Sahara. I.S. Ivanov declared that «this problem can be solved only by political means. Therefore Russia has given support to the UN peace plan, which was approved in its time by the parties directly involved in the conflict. At the same time we consider other suggestions possible that would be based on the principles set forth in the peace plan and would be endorsed by the sides. That's how we feel about the well-known proposals of Mr. Baker.» The minister added that «Russia is interested in resolving this problem. We understand that it complicates the situation in the region and impedes integration processes in Maghreb. Taking into account the high level of Russian relations with Algeria and Morocco, we will use this for rendering assistance in the search of ways to resolve the existing situation.» (News bulletin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation)
Prisoners of war
In a statement, the Committee of external relations of the Polisario Front questions the attitude of Morocco, which has ignored the existence of its prisoners of war for so long, and then suddenly, through an international campaign, becomes concerned about them. The Committee denounces this attitude, which is trying to apply only the clauses of the UN peace plan which exclusively serve Moroccan interests, while Rabat still denies holding Saharawi prisoners of war and pursues its repression of the Saharawi population in the occupied territories, still closed to human rights organisations and independent observers. The Committee believes that the problem of the Moroccan prisoners of war is settled by the provisions of the peace plan.
Approaching the same subject in a statement, the Polisario Front Mission for the United Kingdom and Ireland, points out that by recognising the existence of Moroccan soldiers and their status of prisoners of war, Morocco recognises the existence of an international war with the state of Western Sahara, SADR.
Following the publication in the official Spanish paper of 23 January 2002 of the decree granting prospecting rights for offshore oil in the region between the Canary Islands and the Moroccan coastline off Tarfaya, the Moroccan government protested in a diplomatic note at "this unilateral, questionable and hostile act in so far as it attacks rights inherent to Moroccan sovereignty over its continental shelf - which extends well beyond the median line - as a prolongation of its territory under the sea." (Real Decreto 1462/2001)
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