- Danish government's move to warn businesses over trade in Western Sahara non-renewable resources has been welcomed, but with reservation.
Critics have said while the move is commendable, it should be viewed in light of recent developments, especially the signing and opening of Moroccan waters for EU members.
Pedro Pinto Leite, an international lawyer and co-editor of a book on international law and the question of Western Sahara also welcomes the Danish statement cautiously, saying the statement could have some positive influence especially in supporting a Swedish call for a review of EU-Morocco agreement or perhaps even requesting its cancellation before European Court of Justice.
"This statement is in line with the positions of the Norwegian and Swedish governments. It constitutes a clear warning to the Danish companies not to violate what is agreed to be international law in the question of Western Sahara," Pinto Leite said.
A recent EU fisheries agreement with Morocco has opened up waters off the coast of Western Sahara to EU fishing fleet. Of all EU member states, only Sweden voted against the agreement, keeping in line with the government's policies on trade in natural resources from Western Sahara.
He further said the statement refers to "benefits" of the local people, but does not mention how companies can know whether it is to the benefit of the local people or not, saying it was a catch situation whereby one does not know where to ask Morocco or Polisario. He conluded by underlining that there was clear evidence that interests and wishes of the Sahrawis are not being respected by Moroccan industries and government.
Exiled Western Sahara government high ranking official, Sidi Omar, who hoped other countries would follow and support the move, also welcomed Danish statement, saying: "We hope that other countries would follow suit, especially those whose nationals and companies are acting in the occupied Western Sahara."
"What we understand from the statement is that the Danish Government upholds the norms of international law applicable to Non-Self-Governing Territories including Western Sahara, and therefore it discourages all kinds of involvement of Danish companies in the exploitation of the "non-renewable resources" of Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation, because that will be a breach of those norms," Mr Omar added.
The Danish government has said the move was in recognition of principles of international law regarding non-renewable resources from Non-self Governing Territories. "It is the opinion of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs that such exploitation should not take place," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.
"Denmark supports that the status for Western Sahara should be settled in a peaceful process under the auspices of the UN, and that until the time when a final status is found, actions should not take place that are in violation of the local populations' interests relating to the resource basis of the territory," it said.
However Danish government says it is opening up for an exception to the rule if the exploitation is to the benefit of the local population.
While occupied by Morocco, the mineral rich Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of so-called Non-Self-Governing countries since the 1960's.
Foreign trade in phosphate, fish and other resources from Western Sahara is strongly criticised by representatives of Polisario, the exile government, who says Morocco is harvesting the economic benefits of the trade, against the wishes of the legitimate people.
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