Moroccan parliament approves two bills redrawing the countries' maritime boundaries

Moroccan parliament approves two bills redrawing the countries' maritime boundaries
Morocco's lower house has passed two bills which expand its sovereign territory - one which redraws its maritime boundaries and the other which defines its 'exclusive economic area'.
2 min read
17 December, 2019
Morocco's FM said Rabat is determined to consolidate authority over its naval territory [Getty]
An inter-governmental comittee in Morocco on Monday approved legislation to expand the country's borders to incorporate the territorial water of the Western Sahara.

In a bold assertion of Morroco's regional power, the commitee reached consensus over two "historic" bills, which now await approval from the upper house of the Morrocan parliament, in what is often a mere ceremonial procedure. 

The first concerns the redrawal of Morocco's maritime boundaries and the other, related to the first, defines Morocco's "exclusive economic area", the sea zone over which it has rights of exploration and use of marine resources

Morocco Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita affirmed his country was determined to consolidate authority over its naval territory, expanding as far north as possible, as well as the regional waters of the Western Sahara, which Rabat considers an integral part of the kingdom

Read more: UN chief hopes to maintain 'momentum' in Western Sahara talks

Bourita described the step as tantamount to "asserting, in as clear terms as possible, the unity of our territory and our maritime sovereignty".

At the same time, he stressed that Morocco remained "open" to discussion with its neighbours, Spain and Mauritania.

In 2015, Morocco staunchly opposed Spanish plans to redraw its maritime boundaries, seeing them as akin to a colonial era provocation. 

But on Tuesday, Bourita described the "very positive relations" Morocco had with Spain. Any question over the maritime border with the Canary Islands could be addressed through "dialogue" and the “partnership” between the two countries, he added.

While Spain and Mauritania are unlikely to respond, the move is expected to cause a stir among members of the Polisario front, who in 1976 declared Western Sahara the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), following the withdrawal of Spanish colonialists.

The Polisario fought a war with Morocco over the state they had proclaimed, which began in 1975 and lasted until 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed and a UN peace mission deployed to monitor the truce. 

The Polisario Front currently demands a referundum on independence for Western Sahara. Morocco has flatly rejected this and instead offered autonomy. 

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