Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EP urges Morocco to hold referendum and release Western Saharan prisoners

Agence Europe - 28 October 2005

On 27 October, the European Parliament practically unanimously adopted a resolution on Western Sahara welcoming the recent release by the Polisario Front of all Moroccan prisoners-of-war and calling on the Moroccan authorities to 'immediately release the human rights supporters Aminattou Haidara and Ali Salem Tamek, and 35 other Sahrawi political prisoners, and to shed light on the fate of more than 500 missing Sahrawis, including those who disappeared during military campaigns'.

MEPs welcomed the 'appointment by the UN Secretary General of his Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Ambassador Van Valsum, and the designation of Francisco Bastagali as Special Representative responsible for the UN Mission for the referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which should help to re-activate the peace process in Western Sahara.' The EP called for active support 'for the UN's efforts in calling for the preservation of the natural energy resources of Western Sahara as a non-autonomous territory,' and hopes 'the planned visit of an EP delegation to the region will provide the European Parliament with fresh information regarding the situation there. They say they are confident that the delegation will be able to carry out its mission unobstructed and on schedule, that is to say in January 2006.'

During the debate, several MEPs slammed attempts to remove the debate from Thursday afternoon's agenda. Describing himself as a friend of Morocco, CSU MEP Bernd Posselt said that there had been agreement to discus the serious issue of human rights and then all of a sudden, there was an ambassador wandering around… He warned that human rights were human rights and it was important not to create a precedent, because who knows? Perhaps another day there'll be a dinner with President Putin or lunch with the Chinese Consul and we'd have to abandon plans to discuss one issue or another. British Conservative Charles Tannock pointed out, however, that Algeria currently benefitted from huge oil revenue that he thought might be used to re-arm the Polisario Front (a Western Saharan independence movement).