- More companies have renounced the "ethical aspects" of their own participation in the search for oil resources offshore Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. The Dutch seismic company now follows in the footsteps of Norway's TGS-Nopec, indirectly admitting its operations in the territory were politically and ethically unwise. Harm is however already done.
Last year, the Norwegian Western Sahara Committee succeeded in putting an end to the operations of the Norwegian seismic survey company TGS-Nopec offshore Western Sahara. A successful divestment campaign, causing a significant drop in TGS-Nopec's shares on the stock market caused TGS-Nopec to announce it would not get involved in future operations in the disputed territory.
In June and July this year, European pro-Sahara activists found a new target for their "campaign against the pillage of hydrocarbons in Western Sahara." The British subsidiary of the Dutch company Fugro - Svitzer - had been carrying out a seismic survey, while the Wales-based Robertson Research International had been carrying out a study onshore occupied Western Sahara.
Both companies deliver the results of their studies to the US-based oil company Kerr-McGee, which again has been given exploration rights in Western Sahara by the Moroccan government, in cooperation with the Moroccan state oil company Onarep. As Morocco, according to the UN, is not Western Sahara's administrative power, the whole Kerr-McGee operation is highly questionable according to international law.
After pinpointing Fugro and Robertson Research in the end of June, pro-Sahara organisations from the Netherlands, UK, Norway and France on 30 July succeeded in meeting the Fugro executive in Leidschendam (Netherlands). Here, the activists presented their demand to "hand over collected data to the Polisario Front," the Western Sahara exile government.
According to new reports from the Western Sahara solidarity movement, the meeting with Fugro President Gert-Jan Kramer indeed had produced results. Mr Kramer had agreed that the ethical and political complexity of the Western Sahara conflict would be taken into consideration in the future, but that Fugro's involvement now was finished. Observers understood this as admittance that the company had not earlier properly understood this "complexity".
The Fugro top leader further said that he had now ordered all subsidiaries to consult with the main office in the Netherlands in the event of any offer for further contracts covering Western Sahara. This is seen as a strong indication that Fugro will not consider future actions in the occupied territory.
Mr Kramer nonetheless has not indicated that his company will consider handing over Svitzer's survey results to the Polisario government, as originally demanded by the activists. As was the case with TGS-Nopec last year, Kerr-McGee and Moroccan authorities have received the survey results they paid for. The companies only excused their ethically unwise action after damage was done and payments secured.
Liesbeth den Haan, President of the Dutch Foundation for Self-determination in Western Sahara, nevertheless said she was pleased with the outcome of the meeting with Mr Kramer, appreciating the company's "readiness for initiating a constructive and open dialogue."
- We are satisfied by Fugro's assurances to the Coalition that the company will carefully consider the political and ethical aspects of possible future involvement in the area, in the light of the arguments presented during the meeting, added Ms den Haan.
Also the leader of the Norwegian Western Sahara Committee, Erik Hagen, is partly satisfied with the results of this second action against an oil exploration company headed by the Committee. He recently told afrol News similar actions are planned against other companies exploiting the natural resources of the occupied territory, particularly the rich fisheries and possible oil and gas.
According to other sources with the Western Sahara solidarity movement, plans to target the great player offshore Western Sahara, Texas-based Kerr-McGee, are however yet to materialise. Kerr-McGee by scale is a much bigger company than those targeted so far and the solidarity movement is still weak in the US.
There are however strong signals from the US government that US investments in the occupied territory are increasingly unwanted. Regarding the recent signing of a free trade agreement between the US and Morocco, the US Trade Representative two weeks ago affirmed that the agreement would only "cover trade and investment in he territory of Morocco as recognised internationally, and will not include Western Sahara."
NOTE: This article has been updated/corrected on 12 August.
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