UK Campaign urges Spain to take lead on Western Sahara

As part of a Europe wide day of acti0on on Wednesday 27th Febraury, the UK Western Sahara Camapgin will hand over a letter to the Sapnish Embassy in London requestin urgent meeting. Similar actions in other European countries will urge the Spansih Government to take a lead in resolving the conflict in Western Sahara.

Spain currently holds the Presidency of the European Union and the WSC UK wants to discuss with the Spanish Ambassador ways in which Spain could move the UN peace process forward in Western Sahara. Spain as the former colonial power has a special interest in resolving this long running destabilising conflict on the borders of Europe.

The peace process is at a crossroads with a frustrated Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, bluntly reporting to the UN Security Council last week that, after "more than 11 years and ... half a billion dollars", the UN might have to consider withdrawing from the area as one of its options. The other three options he presented for Western Sahara were, the referendum of self-determination, limited autonomy for the territory within Morocco, or partition of the territory between Morocco and the Saharawi, led by Polisario. The Security Council is due to vote on Wednesday or Thursday this week to approve a further 2 month extension to the mandate of MINURSO, the UN mission in Western Sahara.

Recent legal rulings confirm that the UN and International Court of Justice do not recognise Morocco's annexation of the territory in 1975 (amid political confusion in Spain after the death of Franco), and this leaves Spain, as the former colonial power, legally responsible for the territory. Morocco also receives substantial EU aid. TotalFinaElf, a French company has recently signed an offshore oil exploration contract with Morocco on the coast of Western Sahara. Thus the EU has considerable involvement and leverage with Morocco and the WSC UK would like to see cooperation with the referendum process become a condition of continued aid and investment. The UN Bureau of Legal Affairs has recently ruled that any exploitation of these oil resources without the consent of the Saharawi people would be illegal.

"This reminds us that Morocco's claim has no standing in international law. Spain is still technically the administering power", said Mark Luetchford, Chair of the Western Sahara Campaign. "As current president of the EU it has a historic opportunity to lead Europe towards a speedy solution of this conflict which has gone on far too long. Clear and positive leadership in the EU from the former colonial power could be the very thing that is needed to end the stalemate in the process leading to a referendum of self-determination for the Saharawi people."


For further information and background please contact:

Tim Braunholtz or Cate Lewis, Western Sahara Campaign UK: tel/fax 0113 247 4786, email:

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