Western Sahara: Polisario Front Warns Chinese Sinochem Group Against Its 'Illegal, Unethical and Immoral' Import of Stolen Phosphate From Western Sahara

Bir Lehlou (Saharawi Republic) — The Member of Polisario Front's National Secretariat Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. M'hamed Khadad, warned Chinese, Sinochem Group, against its "illegal, unethical and immoral" import of stolen phosphate cargos from the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

In a letter he addressed on Tuesday 23rd July to the Chairman of the Board of Sinochem Group and Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, Mr Frank Ning, the Saharawi official drew the attention of the Chinese company to the illegality of "phosphate rocks' imports that Sinochem Group has recently started into China from Western Sahara."

Khaddad estimated that the "company may not be aware that importing phosphates from Western Sahara through Morocco is illegal, unethical and immoral and should be brought to an end until the UN decolonization process in Western Sahara is achieved." Nonetheless, he expressed Poilisario's "willingness to meet to discuss these issues."

In this regards Khaddad confirmed that "the import of phosphate rock from Western Sahara to any country confounds the work of the international community to bring peace to Western Sahara and settlement of the Saharawi people's status among nations."

Related to the latest imports of this Chinese company, the letter recalled that Polisario Front has recorded the implication of the three bulk carriers in delivering phosphate cargos to China this year.

These are, according to Khaddad, "bulk carrier m.v. Acra, which arrived to port Lianyungang on 28 November 2019 with a cargo of over 60.000 tones of phosphates... Bulk carrier, the m.v. Kiran Adriatic departed from Western Sahara on 19 January 2019 with 54.050 tones and vessel named Trans Autumn, which transported 50.000 tones of phosphate rock from Western Sahara to China on 21 February."

Although the letter estimated that the company is aware of the history of "Western Sahara and the particular issue of the Saharawi people's right of permanent sovereignty to the natural resources of the territory."

The occupation of Western Sahara, by Morocco, the letter recalled "was by armed force contrary to international law and international humanitarian law and a considerable number of United Nations resolutions." Therefore, "Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara is illegal under the United Nations Charter, the law of self-determination for colonized (non-self-governing) peoples and international criminal law."

On February 27, 1976, the representatives of the Saharawi people "declared the independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (the "SADR"), a state recognized by more than 80 countries and virtually all member states of the African Union."

The question of Western Sahara remains on the agenda of the UN as a decolonization issue. There is currently a UN mission in the Territory called MINURSO trying to organize a referendum of self-determination.

On its part, the African Union (AU) "has remained strongly committed to the decolonisation of Western Sahara, the last African colony, ever since the OAU became actively engaged in reactivating the peace process in Western Sahara following the adoption of its resolution AHG/Res. 104 (XIX) of 1983, which was endorsed by the General Assembly resolutions 39/40 of 1984 and 40/50 of 1985."

Furthermore, the AU's principled position regarding Western Sahara "was reaffirmed when Morocco was admitted as a new member of the Union in January 2017," the letter stresses.

In its 31st Ordinary Session, the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government, held in Nouakchott, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, from 1 to 2 July 2018, adopted a decision in which it "stressed the need for renewed efforts to overcome the current impasse in the negotiation process and to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, in line with relevant AU decisions and UN Security Council resolutions. To this end, it decided to establish an African Union Mechanism comprising the AU Troika and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to extend effective support to the UN-led efforts."

Regarding the UN position on the Moroccan exploitation of the Saharawi natural resources, the UN Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, indicated in a legal opinion requested by the Security Council in 2002, that if "exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories."

The letter also reminded the Chinese companies of the important rulings pronounced by the EU Court of Justice on December 2016, February and July 2018, in which it confirmed that "Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara and its maritime space."

In fact, the landmark judgements delivered by the EU Court of Justice in December 2016 "ruled that, according to the principle of self-determination, the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco could not include, either de jure or de facto, Western Sahara in their trade relations without the prior consent of the Sahrawi people and their representatives."

As a matter of fact, Mr. Khaddad stresses, "Saharawi people have neither consented to nor realize any benefit from the exploration and use of the natural resources of their territory."

On another hand, the letter affirms that while the government of the Saharawi Republic welcomes commercial development, it believes that such activities "must be achieved within a framework of legality as a matter of international and domestic law."

In May 2017, the Saharawi authorities successfully applied to South Africa High Court to detain a vessel carrying a cargo of phosphates that was on its way to New Zealand In June 2017, "the South African High Court made a ruling that the Saharawi authorities (and people) were the rightful owners of the cargo and that Morocco was not entitled to trade in Western Sahara resources," the letter recalls.

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