Morocco 'punishes' Sweden by banning Dutch furniture store

Morocco 'punishes' Sweden by banning Dutch furniture store
Blog: Ikea's new Casablanca store has become the focus of international diplomatic tension between Sweden and Morocco over the occupied Western Sahara
2 min read
Moroccans are unlikely to see the inside of an Ikea store any time soon [Getty]

A diplomatic rift between Sweden and Morocco is growing over both the occupied territory of the Western Sahara - and a formerly Swedish furniture store.

The kingdom's minister of communications, Mustapha Khalfi, announced on Thursday that Morocco had decided to boycott all Swedish companies and products, in protest at the Stockholm's "assault on Moroccan sovereignty", Morocco World News reported.

Morocco's first Ikea store, on the outskirts of Casablanca, is apparently the boycott's first victim.

The store was due to open on Tuesday, but remained shuttered in the absence of a "conformity permit."

The Moroccan news website 360, close to the royal palace, said the measure was in retaliation for Swedish moves to "recognise" the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared by the separatist Polisario Front on the sliver of territory in the east of the Western Sahara not controlled by Morocco.

Ironically, Ikea, which promotes itself as a store selling "affordable Swedish designs", has not legally been Swedish since it relocated its headquarters to the Netherlands in the 1980s.

Flat-pack feud

Ironically Ikea has not legally been Swedish since it relocated its headquarters to the Netherlands in the 1980s

The Moroccan government said Sweden was campaigning to boycott products from the Western Sahara and international companies with a presence there, Reuters said.

It is not known how the boycott will be implemented or upon which countries.

But Sweden has no boycott against any exports from Morocco, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said.

Margot Wallstrom, Sweden's foreign affairs minister said Sweden's entire policy on Western Sahara was being reviewed.

The Western Sahara was taken over by Morocco after the Spanish relinquished their control over the territory in 1975.

However, many Sahrawis opposed this move, and Morocco fought a bitter 16-year war against the Algeria-backed Sahrawi group, the Polisario Front.

A 1975 Court of Justice opinion ruled that Morocco had no legal claim over the territory of Western Sahara, but plans for a referendum on the territory's future proposed by the UN when it brokered a ceasefire between the two sides in 1991 have effectively been put on hold.

Several dozen countries, primarily in Africa, have recognised the independence of Western Sahara.

The sparsely populated territory is rich in natural resources such as phosphates and fisheries, and is seen by many Moroccans as part of their country's historic patrimony.

Ikea spent months building the sprawling store in Casablanca. No future opening date has been provided. The freshly painted blue-and-yellow complex stands shuttered, its vast parking lot largely empty but for a few delivery trucks.