AU denounces illegal exploitation of Saharawi resources, urges Morocco to comply with international legality

Addis Ababa, 25 March 2017 (SPS) - Concerning the question of the illegal exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of the Saharawi territory, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) has stressed the "urgency" of finding answers to this question bearing in mind the call made in the report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations of 10 April 2014, to all those involved, in the light of the growing interest in the natural resources of Western Sahara in order to recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount in accordance with Chapter XI of Article 73 of the Charter, as well as the numerous legal opinions and judgments issued by international and regional organizations on the subject.

In this regard, the Council urges Morocco not to conclude agreements for the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara.

In addition, the PSC has requested the AU Commission, through appropriate channels, to undertake an approach towards the UN Security Council so that the AU High Representative for Western Sahara has the opportunity to address the Security Council at its meeting on Western Sahara scheduled for April 2017, requesting the President of the Commission to transmit the PSC communiqué to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to request it to be circulated as an official document of the UN Security Council, as well as other relevant international stakeholders.

The Commission on the evolution of the peace process in Western Sahara indicated in its report to the meeting that in recent years the issue of human rights in the occupied Saharawi territories remained "a matter of concern". "Continuous violations have been frequently reported by the AU and many stakeholders, both inside and outside the UN system," the Commission noted.

"The Moroccan authorities have restricted the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, sued journalists and forcibly dispersed demonstrations and tightened restrictions on human rights groups, both national and International," said the report. (SPS)