Morocco signs new 'win-win' fishing deal with EU
Morocco and the European Union signed a new fishing agreement on Tuesday, after concluding three months of negotiations to replace a deal that expired last week.
The new agreement allows EU boats to access Morocco's fishing waters for 52 million euros per year ($60m), a 30 percent increase on the old deal, a document circulated by Morocco's ministry of agriculture and fishing said.
"It is a win-win agreement," said Claudia Wiedey, the head of the EU's delegation in Morocco.
The deal will come into force "by the end of the year", a Moroccan diplomatic source said.
But the text still has to be approved by the North African country's legislature and the EU parliament.
Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita claimed the new agreement includes waters off the disputed Western Sahara region and called the deal a "response to manoeuvres" by the Polisario Front independence movement.
Morocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.
In February, the European Court of Justice said including the territory of Western Sahara and its adjacent waters within a fishing agreement between the EU and Morocco would be "contrary to certain rules of general international law".
But in the EU's negotiating mandate, the European Commission said it was "possible to extend bilateral agreements with Morocco to Western Sahara under certain conditions", angering the Polisario Front.
Rabat views Western Sahara as an integral part of the kingdom and has proposed autonomy for the resource-rich territory but the Polisario Front insists on a UN referendum on independence.