For Immediate Release

June 18, 2004

Congressmen blast Morocco's insistence on "territorial integrity"

Washington-Responding to claims made this week that Morocco needs to maintain control over Western Sahara, Congressmen Joe Pitts and Donald Payne today blasted efforts by the Kingdom of Morocco to dodge its international commitments in the name of its "territorial integrity." The Congressmen issued the following statement.

"We are concerned about statements made this week that Morocco needs to maintain its 'territorial integrity' in order to prevent terrorists from threatening its borders. This idea is misguided and wrong. It's divorced from the reality on the ground there.

"Morocco has agreed to give the people of Western Sahara a vote on their future. And anyone who knows the situation knows that the Kingdom instead has dodged its commitment to the international community, begun to illegally exploit the natural resources of Western Sahara, and manipulated the international community. Let's be honest. This isn't about 'territorial integrity,' it's about money and power.

"The fact is the people of the Western Sahara, the Sahrawis, are pro-west and pro-democracy. They have their own elected leaders, including many women. They have their own democracy constitution. They have denounced violence. They are not terrorists. The Sahrawis have set an example when it comes to peaceful resistance and denunciation of terrorism to obtain their national goals &endash; they have utilized the international system and the UN system to achieve a peaceful resolution to this conflict.

"The Moroccan conflict is not simply against the Sahrawi people but against international law. The October 1975 International Court of Justice decision stating that there are no legal or 'territorial sovereignty' ties between the territory of Western Sahara and Morocco.

"Western Sahara is a bastion of moderation and democracy in the midst of a region devoid of freedom. The United States and the United Nations have promised the Sahrawis a vote to determine their future. Yet repeatedly we have let them down. It needs to stop. The Kingdom of Morocco has every right to maintain its terriritorial integrity, but not over land that does not belong to it. Any decisions related to Western Sahara must be done at the ballot box in a free, fair and transparent referendum and not at the expense of freedom-loving people."

Congressman Payne is Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa. Congressman Pitts is Vice-Chair of the International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Human Rights.


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