by Haddamin Moulud Said
According to the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency, the Russian Government and Morocco are preparing to renew the fisheries agreement signed on March 15, 2016.
The current agreement establishes the principles of cooperation between the Russian Federation and Morocco in the field of conservation and use of marine living resources inside the exclusive economic zone of the Kingdom of Morocco as well as it determines the conditions for the fishing activities of vessels flying the Russian Federation’s flag.
According that agreement, Morocco offers the possibility to fish small pelagic fish species in its Atlantic fishing zone to Russian fishing vessels, and also annually determines the total composition of catches by group of fish species, fishing areas, prices of reference, number and type of Russian fishing vessels engaged in fishing activities inside the Atlantic fishing zone of Morocco.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is closely following the issue of Western Sahara. The international legal status of the territory is not an unknown issue for the Russian government.
In fact, on April 9, 2020, for example, Russia actively participated in the debate on Western Sahara, during the Security Council meeting.
However, outside the walls of the UN Security Council, Russia adopts a strange position. Shortly after leaving New York, it stops in in the Atlantic waters close to Western Sahara, to recreate practices more appropriate of past centuries, relating to the plundering [the natural resources] of others, by preying, never better said, as the old saying goes “fishermen make their day in troubled waters”. In other words, as long as the conflict is not resolved, Russia can continue to be making these profits, at the cost of the plights of the Saharawi people, who have the ownership of these resources.
The agreement signed in March 2016 between Russia and Morocco, and which is now being renewed, establishes that the fishing area is located further south of the 28º N parallel. This means, inside the waters adjacent to Western Sahara. In other words, what Russia calls international cooperation, international legality, etc., it’s actually nothing but euphemisms with which to camouflage the practices of looting and piracy on high seas. Russia gobbles up industrial quantities of sardine, sardinella, mackerel, horse mackerel and anchovies stolen from Western Sahara, in open violation of the 1982 Montego Bay Convention.
It should be remembered, at this point, that the USA has a Trade Agreement with Morocco. But unlike Russia, the SA expressly excludes the territory of Western Sahara from the scope of the said trade agreement.
It is evident that the Sahrawis, abandoned in the desert, can do little against powerful Russia. But we could ask ourselves why Russia does not go directly, without prior agreement with Morocco, to fish in those waters? It does not do so because it would be evident, then, that Russia would be looting and plundering the natural resources of a non-autonomous territory.
However, if instead of proceeding directly, you do it through an agreement with those who do not have any legal title to sign it, would the meaning of looting and plundering change? Obviously not. Hence, what the Sahrawis may or may not do is irrelevant. What is at stake is the moral stature of Russia, who wants to continue being a key actor in an International Community whose relations are based on respect for the principles of equal rights of States and for the self-determination of peoples.
Long ago, those times, in which Moscow was one of the great defenders of the right of the Namibian people over their natural resources and actively participated, along with the International Community, to punish the looting of these resources by third States. On the other hand, it seems that today the value of the ‘Tuchka’ has led Russian rulers to ignore both legal and moral precepts, on which International Law is based.
It is clear, moreover, that this Russian behavior could have a negative impact on their bilateral relations with other States, much more committed to defending the right of the Saharawi people to permanent possession of their resources and who refuse this new form of piracy and pillage of the natural resources of a non-autonomous territory. This behavior could also seriously disturb the environment when negotiating the sale of material and equipments to those third States, undoubtedly having as a result the hindering of another industry much more vital to Russia.