Rabat - A large Moroccan phosphate shipment has been held up in a South African port after the Polisario Front complained that it had been transported illegally from the Western Sahara.
Rabat – A large Moroccan phosphate shipment has been held up in a South African port after the Polisario Front complained that it had been transported illegally from the Western Sahara.
Media outlets are calling the seizure an attempt by Polisario to test last year’s European court ruling prohibiting Morocco from trading resources from Western Sahara with the EU.
The USD 5 million shipment of 50,000 tons of phosphate was bound for New Zealand, not the EU.
The NM Cherry Blossom, carrying the shipment for the Moroccan state-run OCP, was detained by a civil maritime order in Port Elizabeth, where it had stopped to re-fuel.
Following the seizure, Polisario issued a statement that the shipment had been “intercepted.”
OCP rejected the separatist group’s claim, explaining that a temporary suspension is expected following the issue of a legal complaint. It’s a “very normal procedure,” said Mohamed Soual, OCP’s presidential counselor.
“The order issued in South Africa regarding the cargo of the NM Cherry Blossom is a standard temporary measure made on the basis of only one party’s allegations,” OCP legal counsel Othamne Bennani Smires told Reuters.
The counsel underlined that the company’s activities are in full compliance with UN and international regulations, and he assured that a “favorable resolution” would be soon found with the South African court.
Phosphate importers in New Zealand said that this is the first seizure of Moroccan shipments they had experienced in 30 years.
Polisario’s provocation comes after announcing its withdrawal last week from the Guerguerat buffer zone, where its militias had violated the 1991 UN ceasefire agreement by setting up illegal checkpoints to harass and threaten Moroccan truckers.
The separatist force declared it would “redeploy” its forces the day before the UN Security Council voted to extend its Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for another year, with conditions favoring Morocco.
South Africa, along with Algeria, has been a vocal supporter of the Polisario Front separatist movement, working on its behalf to block the kingdom’s re-admission in the African Union in January.