Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Western Sahara

Delivered in Plenary - 24th November 2010

Madam President

The frozen conflict over Western Sahara is destabilising the surrounding region. Morocco’s intransigence continues to deny justice to the people of Western Sahara, who have been waiting for a referendum on independence for the past 20 years.

While I do accept that Morocco is an important ally of the West in the fight against terrorism, it is deeply regrettable that Morocco will not deliver on its stated commitments to the terms of the UN settlement plan. We should now, in the light of the report of violence against the people of Western Sahara, give the UN mission there a mandate to monitor the human rights of the Sahrawi people. But efforts to develop this capacity have been sadly and consistently blocked by France. This is almost unique among all UN missions: it is the only one without a human rights mandate. Morocco and the Polisario Front both need to understand what is expected of them in terms of standards by the international community. We do have a lot of leverage over Morocco here in the EU, particularly over fishing rights and aid.

Hopefully the impending referendum scheduled for South Sudan, which will create a new sovereign state in the south, will provide fresh motivation for all the parties involved to seek a final resolution to this long-standing dispute over Western Sahara – a territory and a people which, in my mind, deserve a peaceful and prosperous future.