"Illegal" oil activity troubles Western Sahara

Tuesday, 1 July, 2014

Illegitimate oil is in the news quite a bit these days: if it’s not massive fraud in Nigeria or those fighty ne’er-do-wells in the middle East suddenly finding themselves billionaires (who’s buying it, you might reasonably ask, were you not certain the answer would be so depressing), it’s now… Western Sahara - long famous mainly for being effectively stateless

The Polisario Front, the country’s closest approximate of a government, has recently warned against what they call "illegal" activities of “certain foreign companies” conducting exploration and drilling of oil and gas off the coast of Western Sahara. Via AllAFrica.com we learn that they have called on the Secretary General of the UN to intervene to stop this on the pretty solid basis that "this kind of activity is illegal and constitutes a serious challenge to efforts to reach a mutually acceptable political solution that provides self-determination of the Saharawi people."

turns out, however, that the main culprit here is the government of Morrocco, which claims much of Western Saharan territory, and indeed controls some of it.

From the article:

The Saharawi President called on the UN to intervene to put an end to these activities which hinder the efforts of the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, able to reach a just and lasting solution to the conflict and achieve security and regional integration in the Maghreb.

"The Moroccan government recently signed contracts with American company Cosmos Energy and French company Total, to conduct prospecting and drilling operations for oil and gas near the Saharan coast," he recalled.

"In December 2013, the two companies have signed a declaration of principles with the Moroccan National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, under which these activities are conducted in compliance with the international code," he added.

"Morocco is illegally occupying Western Sahara. It is not entitled to conclude an agreement for the exploitation of natural resources of Western Sahara," said the Saharawi president, stressing that "any such agreement is considered null and void.”

Seeing as this situation’s been unresolved since Spanish withdrawal from the territory in the mid-70s, and that oil has a poor track record of bringing peace and prosperity while settling territorial claims, we’d have to say - while hoping fervently to be wrong - that the outlook for a resolution of this one’s not positive.