Morocco Rejects South Africa’s Seizure of Sahara Phosphate Cargo

The Moroccan government described the South African court decision to maintain seizure of a vessel carrying Sahara phosphates bound for New Zealand as a “violation of international law”.

In a statement to the press, Spokesperson for the Moroccan government Mustapha El Khalfi condemned in the strongest terms the ruling by South African court on June 15 to maintain at Port Elizabeth the Seized Cherry Blossom ship.

The ship, carrying 55,000 tons of Moroccan Sahara phosphates bound for New Zealand, was seized in a hostile action reflecting the use of the justice system in South Africa by the separatists to settle political matters with Morocco.

Treating the case on the basis of a “judgement on the merits” by the South African court is “in contradiction with international law,” El Khalfi told the press following the weekly government meeting Thursday.

He explained by taking such a biased decision, the South African court falls into contradiction with the European Court of Justice ruling which considers such cases beyond its jurisdictions.

El Khalfi said the ruling of the South African court is instigated by Political considerations in utter violation of international law, adding that Morocco rejects the unlawful decision of holding the cargo and will take necessary measures to address this unjust action by South African authorities.

The court decided that the ship should remain held in the port pending a full trial on the matter after the Polisario challenged the legality of the transaction in a bid to use the justice system of its South African ally to undermine Morocco’s economic interests.

In a statement, Morocco’s state-owned Phosphates Company expressed “outrage” at the unlawful actions taken by South African maritime authorities, condemning the seizure of the cargo as a “political matter disguised as a legal claim”.

Last Month, a court in Panama dismissed a similar attempt by the Polisario to block a cargo of Moroccan phosphates heading to Canada. The Panama court made it clear that a local court was not the appropriate venue to resolve international disputes and that the phosphates cargo did not belong to the Polisario.

Last year, an ECJ ruling stated that the Polisario is not eligible to challenge Morocco’s economic deals on grounds that the separatist front is not recognized by the UN and hence not entitled to represent the commercial interests of the Sahara population.

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