Morocco's OCP slams SA decision to hold phosphate ship

2017-06-17 07:16
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Rabat - Morocco's OCP group denounced on Friday a decision by a South African court to hold a Moroccan ship laden with phosphate mined from the disputed Western Sahara pending a trial.

The court said it wanted to determine ownership of the cargo of the boat that is being held at Port Elizabeth.

The 34 000-ton vessel from Western Sahara, which was destined for New Zealand, was last month prevented from departing due to a court motion seeking that the vessel return its cargo.

The motion argued that the transportation of goods from disputed Western Sahara is illegal and in violation of international principles.

"The court has basically found that the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Polisario Front have established, on a prima facie basis, that effectively the people of Western Sahara own the cargo," Andre Bowley, the complainants' lawyer told AFP.

But Otmane Bennani Smires, legal director of the OCP group, a global market leader in the phosphates industry, said the firm "contests the decision to send the case to trial".

The OCP, on its website, said that the court's decision "directly contradicts and damages the internationally supported United Nations negotiating process" between Morocco and the Polisario Front.

Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, when Rabat took over the desert territory before the signing of the UN-brokered ceasefire.

Rabat, which considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco, proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Polisario insists on an independence referendum.

The UN in April adopted a resolution to restart political talks between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario.

Read more on:    morocco  |  sa  |  north africa

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