Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda
President of the Security Council
6 July 2009
Further to my letter to the President of the Security Council of 8 April (UN Doc. A/63/871 and S/2009/198), it is with great alarm that I bring to your attention recent reports of an escalation of effort by the Kingdom of Morocco to take illegally the oil and gas resources of Western Sahara.
It has come to the attention of the Frente POLISARIO that Morocco’s state-owned Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) has entered into commercial arrangements with the Irish-based Island Oil and Gas plc and San Leon Energy Plc to upgrade pre-existing reconnaissance licences into full exploration licences, located in the Zag Basin and Tarfaya areas. It is the understanding of the Frente POLISARIO that the planned activities include the commencement of exploratory drilling in the Zag Basin, and the employment of In-Situ Vapour Extraction (IVE) technology on oil shale deposits in the Tarfaya area. Both purported licence areas lie inside the territory of Western Sahara, as confirmed clearly on the webpage of Island Oil and Gas plc at http://www.islandoilandgas.com/international-projects/morocco.aspx.
The activities described above make a mockery of the principles enshrined in Article 73 of the UN Charter that the interests of the people of Non-Self-Governing-Territories are paramount, and that their well-being and development are the “sacred trust” of the international community. There is no legal basis for Morocco to authorise or undertake any activities involving the exploration or exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara. The International Court of Justice confirmed in 1975 that there are no ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco, and no state recognises Moroccan sovereignty over any part of the Territory of Western Sahara.
In accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), which contains the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the natural resources of the Western Sahara are the heritage of the Saharawi people. As reaffirmed most recently in General Assembly Resolution 63/102 of 18 December 2008, the Saharawi people have the exclusive right to the enjoyment of their natural resources and to dispose of those resources in their best interests. Activities which deprive the Saharawi people of the right to enjoy and benefit from the exploitation of those resources are in contravention of international law. It is in this legal context that the UN Legal Counsel declared in an important opinion provided to the Security Council in January 2002:
‘If further 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’. (UN Doc. S/2006/161)
It is the responsibility of the Security Council and the Members of the United Nations to restore respect for international law. In this regard, I recall General Assembly Resolution 63/102, which calls on Member States to take “legislative, administrative or other measures in respect of their nationals and the bodies corporate under their jurisdiction that own and operate enterprises in the Non-Self-Governing Territories that are detrimental to the interests of the inhabitants of those Territories, in order to put an end to those enterprises.”
Morocco’s actions in Western Sahara and those of complicit foreign entities seriously undermine the ongoing political process aimed at achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. In the interests of bringing this long-standing dispute towards a peaceful solution, the Security Council must call a halt to the illegal plunder of the natural resources belonging to the people of Western Sahara.
I would be most grateful if you would bring this letter to the attention of the Members of the Security Council.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Representative of the Frente POLISARIO
Original article published on July 6, 2009.
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