Western sahara Major events

Exploration Group Sound Energy Closes In On Gas Reservoir In Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 13:21

Proactive Investors
Ian Lyall

The well will be drilled to a vertical depth of 2,977 metres.

Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) said its latest well on the Tendrara licence in Morocco has reached the final casing point.

TE-8’s liner is being cemented at a depth of 2,603 metres and is just two metres from the main reservoir in the TAGI formation. The well will be drilled to a vertical depth of 2,977 metres.

Assuming gas is encountered in the main well bore, a further 30-day side-track will be drilled to prove a potentially deeper gas contact 900 metres to the north-west.

TE-8 is around 12 kilometres from the last successful hole and is what’s called a step out well because it will test the lateral extent of gas that has been discovered in the TAGI reservoir.

Whatever comes in the next two months, the firm has already enjoyed considerable success at Tendrara.

Results from TE-7 were revealed on January 19 with the company telling investors that over a 56 day period of continuous flow the well has yielded just under 1bn cubic feet of gas.

That figure is made all the more impressive given that the gas flow was constrained in test conditions, at a maximum of 40% drawdown, in order to protect the integrity of the well completion to date.

No formation water was produced during testing – as the company had expected – and there were no indications of barriers.

As such Sound said that the result had confirmed a “significant connected volume” of gas is present at Tendrara, and it would now monitor pressure across past wells to confirm the physical connectivity of the reservoir.

The programme on TE-8 is scheduled to last 40-50 days, according to the City research firm Capital Networks.

It is one of a number of value-accretive catalysts expected in 2017, said Capital’s analyst, Lionel Therond.

“We believe the stock provides investors the opportunity to gain exposure to one of the few growth story in the sector, with the potential to benefit from substantial appreciation as assets get de-risked and material resources are added,” he said in a note.

Earlier this week Sound said it had begun drilling the hotly-anticipated Badile well in Italy, adding more spice to the investment story.

Sound’s Italian assets were the foundation stone on which the company was built and it has two producing wells – although their output is modest.

Badile, however, could be a changer. An independent assessment suggests the target could be host to around 178bn standard cubic feet of gas with a net present value of £400mln.

That figure is what’s called a ‘best case’, unrisked estimate. It sits at in the middle of the range with the ‘high case’ forecast being 670bn cubic feet and the ‘low case’ 46bn cubic feet.

Anyway, work on the well, located in the north of the country, around 10 miles from Milan, began on Tuesday (March 7).

The plan is to go down to a total depth of 4,445 metres with drilling and logging expected to take 100 days.

Assuming gas is found, it will take a further 25 days for completion and testing.

Ian Lyall

Morocco Arrests 2 IS-linked Suspects In Casablanca

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 05:10

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua

The Moroccan police arrested on Thursday two people with links to the Islamic State (IS) group in the city of Casablanca, the Interior ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, the suspects planned to carry out terrorist operations in Morocco and had begun to acquire devices used in making explosives.

This operation has allowed the seizure of copper cables, a thermometer, electric batteries, a bottle containing a suspect liquid, a bag of powder and other equipment suspected of being used in manufacturing explosives, the statement pointed out.

The arrested people will be brought to justice once the investigation is completed, it noted.

The north African kingdom has seen a growing threat from terror groups, especially IS.

According to official figures, Morocco busted 19 terrorist cells and arrested 273 suspects in 2016, most of them linked to the group, which control large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

Morocco Applying To Join ECOWAS – Issues To Consider

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 08:32

Ghana Business News
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi

Morocco has recently expressed interest in joining the West African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The news was received with mixed feelings across the region, and questions are being asked.

Located in North Africa between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the distance between Morocco and Ghana in West Africa is some 2714km.

A country that takes pride in its Arab heritage and culture, in spite of the mixture of Berber and the influence of European culture, Morocco is more Arab than anything else.

With a population of some 35 million people, Morocco until recently wasn’t even a member of the African Union (AU). The country left the continental organization for more than 30 years over the AU’s recognition of Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco laid claims to. Early this year, it reapplied to the AU and was readmitted. That wasn’t surprising, but Morocco’s recent expression of interest to join the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS is raising eyebrows.

ECOWAS is a regional bloc of some 15 countries close to each other, and mostly sharing borders. The countries are Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Benin and Cape Verde.

While this won’t be the first time that north African countries have joined organisations originally meant exclusively for countries in other regions of Africa, as Libya and Egypt are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a group of countries in East and South Africa, Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS sounds bizarre.

The country Morocco

With its diverse Arab, Berber and influence of European culture, Morocco describes itself as a constitutional monarchy. In 2011 it adopted a new Constitution, which laid the grounds for what it describes as a more open and democratic society, with separation of powers and increased decentralization. Despite the claim to democracy, the monarchy has a tight grip on the country.

Its economy

The World Bank reports that after a good performance in 2015, the Moroccan economy is decelerating in 2016. Economic activity slowed to 1.4 per cent in the second quarter as a result of a 12.1 per cent contraction in agriculture production, while growth outside the agriculture sector remained sluggish at around 2.5 per cent. Inflation has remained muted at under 2 per cent, reflecting prudent monetary policy and the fall in international commodity prices.

The Bank further indicates that based on performance since the beginning of 2016, Morocco is expected to reduce its fiscal deficit to 3.5 per cent of GDP.

“This would be the result of strong revenue performance and the continued reduction in consumption subsidies. Morocco should thus be able to stabilize its central government debt at around 64 per cent of GDP,” it said.

The country’s trade deficit narrowed down in recent years as a result of fiscal consolidation efforts and the emergence of Morocco’s new industries, especially automobiles. The current account deficit should not exceed 1.5 per cent of GDP for 2016, and Morocco’s international reserves reached $24.9 billion—the equivalent of 7.3 months’ worth of imports at end-June 2016, the World Bank said.

Considering its sound economic performance, despite all the headwinds, which is an indication that Morocco might be seeking to take advantage of the West African economy – with a population of 335 million, West Africa has a GDP of $345 billion, and Morocco already has bilateral relations with almost all the 15 countries of the ECOWAS.

While Morocco might be a good trading partner as it is also one of the leading producers of phosphate in Africa, there are already existing trade relations with these countries, raising questions about the exact reasons behind Morocco’s interest in becoming a member of ECOWAS.

The ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Governance

The ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance Article 1, emphasizes on separation of powers, and among others the independence of the Judiciary and judges.

The Protocol is also clear on the secularism and neutrality of the State in all matters relating to religion, but does not preclude the right of the State to regulate with due respect to human rights.

Besides, ECOWAS protocols such as this one are binding. What that means is that, for a constitutional monarchy that operates quite differently, it remains to be seen how Morocco can subject itself to these universal principles of this particular ECOWAS protocol.

African integration dynamics

In March 2006, at an AU Summit in Banjul, the African Union — in its wisdom — decided and resolved to rationalise the numerous regional economic communities (RECs) from 14 to 8, so that each region would have its own “regional” reference. This meant that, for example, West Africa’s REC would be recognised as ECOWAS (even as there is UEMOA / etc); and in Central Africa (where discussions to rationalise the groupings there are far advanced than in West Africa), the only REC would be ECCAS.

Now, something seismic is happening in Africa’s integration. The request by North Africa’s Morocco to join ECOWAS does not only complicate Africa’s integration efforts, but makes nonsense of that 2006 decision as it will set a horrible precedent for any country to find justifiable and self-serving reasons to join any REC they want. We do know Rwanda re-joined ECCAS last year, and now belongs to both the East African Community and ECCAS. This may be problematic but not at the scale of Morocco wanting to join ECOWAS.

This Moroccan request has been troubling since the news broke. Algeria, long-term nemesis of Morocco, is deeply-troubled by Morocco’s request. In articles in both the Moroccan and Algerian press, it is clear there is no love lost between the neighbours, and that Algeria remains confused by Morocco’s apparently, inexplicable turn to West Africa.

In the event that Morocco’s adhesion to ECOWAS happens, it will serve a bad precedent for Africa’s integration by allowing any AU Member State to subject the flawed AU to its whims and caprices. Already, that Chad got the AU Commission position over Kenya’s Amina Mohammed by just two votes reflects, it is speculated, how Idris Deby used his influence as AU Chair to leverage and rally support for the dark horse that was Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Although one has yet to read of or detect any resistance from the West African diplomats in Abuja, what we now know is that, the Togolese government has registered its opposition. In a faux pas by the state-supporting republicoftogo.com, it posted days after the request to join ECOWAS on February 24 that the Togolese government “is not hostile to the adhesion” of Morocco. Now, an article on the same site that was posted March 3, explained that the Presidency had denounced the assertion that he would use all his influence to support Morocco’s bid.

A recent interview of ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza to RFI sounds neutral in its opinion of the fate of Morocco. When you read between the lines, de Souza’s insistence that it will be up to the Authority of Heads of State to decide, — and that admitting Morocco will set a “precedent” — speaks volumes about the fate of Morocco.

Why ECOWAS and not CEN-SAD

Even more curious is why Morocco did not opt for the 28-member CEN-SAD, which was established by the late Qaddafi in 1998.

In 2014, at the cusp of Morocco’s hosting of A CEN-SAD meeting, Carnegie Endowment wrote; “Of these alliances, CEN-SAD must be particularly attractive to Morocco, for several reasons. Its preeminence in the organization will likely go uncontested; no other member has the spur, stature, and stability to lead it. Other potential leaders (namely Nigeria and Kenya) are firmly ensconced as anchor states in existing, functional RECs—Nigeria in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Kenya in the East African Community (EAC), among others.”

It went on to argue, “Egypt remains deeply embroiled in regional diplomacy and its own internal affairs, and Algeria’s absence from CEN-SAD should allow Morocco free reign to guide the organization independent of its neighbor. Moreover, the Kingdom may enjoy novel forms of influence within a REC based on a projection of Africa’s Arab and Muslim North into the continent’s South; CEN-SAD, apparently an abbreviation taken from Arabic letters sin and sad (for al-sahil and al-sahara), covers over half of Africa’s nations, and what unites such a diverse set of countries—from the Gambia to the Comoros, and Somalia to Sierra Leone—more than any connection to ecoclimatic or environmental conditions, is Islam.”

Chad and Morocco share an important affinity: both have sought to become members of ECOWAS, and both have played instrumental roles in CEN-SAD, too.

The Chad factor

In 2011, Chad was, in fact, granted observer status of ECOWAS. Then the Mali coup happened in 2012 — and suddenly, Chad offered support to the Africa-led support mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the tune of around 3000 troops, which is around a third of what all ECOWAS troops offered.

One of the critical reasons why Chad was an important country to look out for was what happened in February 2013 when Chad’s President Idris Deby hosted some eleven leaders of the CEN-SAD regional economic community. The capital N’djamena played host to what should have been 20 members of the populous grouping. Even if a little over a third of the Heads of State showed up, it was encouraging to see that the 17 other member states dispatched representatives. Furthermore, it has shown that the raison d’être for the establishment of the grouping might still be relevant.

Some of the major outcomes included a revision of the Charter, to reflect the fact that the organisation is interested in two major things: peace and security; and sustainable development. Two permanent organs will be established to this end, and Egypt is likely to host the peace and security organ. That Egypt was, in 2016 at a CEN-SAD meeting, recommended as the headquarters of the host of Counter-terrorism Centre, speaks to a level of confidence reposed increasingly by African states of North African countries on security matters.

One wonders, given Morocco’s acknowledged world-class expertise on counter-terrorism, why it did not consider using CEN-SAD as an opportunity to reinvent itself on the continental stage — as it appears it wants to do by joining ECOWAS. The real question — as may be asked of Tunisia that has also expressed an interest in joining ECOWAS — is whether ECOWAS really needs Morocco!

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi (edogbevi@gmail.com) & Emmanuel K. Bensah ( ekbensah@gmail.com)

Morocco Says Determined To Develop Western Sahara

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 03:05

News 24
AFP

Morocco is “more determined than ever” to develop the Western Sahara, Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said on Wednesday on a two-day visit to the disputed territory.

Rabat insists the former Spanish colony is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Algeria-based Polisario Front demands a referendum on self-determination there.

The two sides fought for control of the Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of the territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect.

“We are more determined than ever to continue to develop the Sahara region,” Hassad told AFP.

“Unfortunately there are many people who don’t like this, particularly the fact that we are building roads,” he said, referring to the Polisario.

Hassad spoke after Morocco pulled back from the area of Guerguerat near the Mauritanian border in late February at the request of the United Nations.

Tensions flared last year after the Polisario set up a new military post in the same area.

That was in response to Morocco starting to build a tarmac road in the area south of the buffer zone separating Moroccan troops from Polisario fighters.

Rabat sees the road as key to trade between Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.

Hassad said Morocco has invested around $8.5bn in the territory in projects expected to create more than 10 000 jobs by 2021.

The projects include a university to teach medicine and a 1 000km highway along the coast, he said.

Morocco Tightens Border Control To Stem Illegal Migration

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 02:18

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua

This photo taken on February 17, 2017 shows a general view of the fence between the Moroccan city of Fnideq and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, which was built to keep out migrants, traffickers, or an enemy group. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Morocco will further tighten border control with Algeria to counter illegal migration of subsaharan Africans and arm trafficking, local media reported on Wednesday.

The regional council of Oriental (eastern) region decided to build new control points to go along with the building of 100 km border fence with Algeria, the daily Akhbar Al Yaoum said.

The same source noted that authorities have raised vigilance in the region which is regarded as a main entrance of illegal migrants from subsaharan Africa.

Sound Energy One Of The Few Companies To Be Playing And Winning In The Exploration And Production Game – Says Broker

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 20:44

Proactive Investors
Ian Lyall

WH Ireland’s comments followed news earlier the company had begun drilling its hotly anticipated Badile gas well in Northern Italy.

First to the ball? Sound is certainly ahead in the high stakes E&P game.

Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) is one of the few companies to be “playing and winning” in the exploration and production “spectrum”, according to one City broker.

WH Ireland’s comments followed news earlier the company had begun drilling its hotly anticipated Badile gas well in Northern Italy.

The house said oil services giant Schlumberger’s involvement with Sound’s projects in Italy and the successful exploration programme in Morocco has “brought technical validation” to the business.

But it added: “The bulk of the risk and reward resides with Sound.”

Earlier, the company said work on the Badile well, around 10 miles from Milan, began on Tuesday (March 7).

The plan is to go down to a total depth of 4,445 metres with drilling and logging expected to take 100 days.

Assuming gas is found, it will take a further 25 days for completion and testing.

To date the company has scored significant success at Tendrara, in Morocco, where it has discovered significant accumulations of potentially commercial gas.

However, Sound’s Italian assets were the foundation stone on which the company was built and it has two producing wells – although their output is modest.

Badile, however, could be a game changer. An independent assessment suggests the target could be host to around 178bn standard cubic feet of gas with a net present value of £400mln.

That figure is what’s called a ‘best case’, unrisked estimate. It sits at in the middle of the range with the ‘high case’ forecast being 670bn cubic feet and the ‘low case’ 46bn cubic feet.

On Badile, WHI said: “The structure is classic fault and dip bound structure as seen below.

“The key risk in our opinion relates to reservoir quality as carbonates are inherently prone to regional variations.

“Regardless of the result, we believe that getting anything done in Italy is a noteworthy achievement.

“We also note that we believe the source rock could be more oil prone than anticipated.

“A porous/permeable reservoir of this scale might need only three wells to develop and infrastructure is in the immediate vicinity.”

Sounds shares inched higher in late morning trade to 89p, valuing the business at a touch over £600mln.

A year ago the stock was changing hands for 17p with the success in Morocco driving the meteoric rise in the price.

In March 2016 the company’s future, in the minds of some investors at least, was predicated on the success or otherwise of Badile.

Now, according to natural resources boutique SP Angel, its significance has been “de-emphasised” by Sound’s success in North Africa.

“That said, for investors, we believe that even a drilling failure will be an opportunity as although Badile has been the pivot on which Sound changed direction, its value has not really been reflected in the market cap, hence we believe any weakness in share price following Badile will offer an in point,” SP Angel said.

“This is one of those rare moments where the term often applied to drilling, that it is ‘better to travel than to arrive’ actually isn’t true, as the journey has been impressive and the destination (Badile’s result) will (ultimately) be positive for investors for the aforementioned reasons, no matter what.”

Algeria: The real messages behind weapons supply to the Polisario

Polisario-confidential - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 12:00
No need to be a soothsayer to grasp the messages sent by Algeria through the delivery of new military equipment to the Polisario, the movement that challenges Morocco’s sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara. The Algerian lot generously delivered to the Polisario includes armored vehicles, ground-to-air missiles, all-terrain vehicles … but it’s not enough to worry […]

Cairn Hones Senegal, Acquires New Atlantic Acreage

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 07:09

Natural Gas World
Mark Smedley

After SNE-5, drillship Stena DrillMax is proceeding to Cairn’s next offshore Senegal well, VR-1 (Photo credit: Cairn Energy)

UK independent Cairn Energy foresees producing first oil from Senegal in 2021-2023, expects first oil this year from two UK North Sea projects and has expanded its Atlantic acreage offshore Ireland with two new farm-ins there announced March 8.

Cairn reported a smaller net loss of $95mn last year ($516mn loss in 2015) including unsuccessful well costs of $70mn chiefly in Mauritania and Norway’s Barents Sea (down from 2015: $97mn). CEO Simon Thomson said: “Cairn continues to deliver positive progress across its balanced portfolio… against a backdrop of increased financial flexibility” with net cash at end-2016 of $335mn.

Offshore Senegal where it announced its positive SNE-5 well result on March 7, Cairn said it expects to choose a development concept this year and from 2018 onwards with partners to submit the Exploitation Plan and proceed to a final investment decision, with first oil expected in 2021-2023.

Woodside’s entry to the Senegal venture “brings extensive experience in developing and operating floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities,” argued Cairn; its Australian junior partner FAR though has contested the way in which ConocoPhillips sold its Senegal stake to Woodside.

In the UK, Cairn’s 20% and 29.5% stakes respectively in North Sea Catcher and Kraken developments are “on track for first oil from 2017” with peak net production to Cairn of some 25,000 boe/d.

Cairn’s frontier prospects lie on what 175mn years ago was the dividing line between continents (Map credit: Cairn Energy presentation, March 8 2017)

Off Western Sahara, with Kosmos as operator, Cairn expects to start 3D seismic acquisition this year in Boujdour Maritime. Norway’s Oil Fund divested from both firms mid-2016 as it considers Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara as illegal. Kosmos has proven significant gas off nearby Mauritania.

Farm into two Irish Atlantic blocks

Off Ireland’s Atlantic coast, Cairn secured one licence as operator last year and March 8 announced an additional farm-in (with operatorship and 70% interest) to Europa Oil & Gas’s adjacent block, with plans for 3D seismic there in 2017. Cairn will fully fund up to $6mn of Europa’s work programme,

Also March 8, Cairn became a 30% partner in a Providence Resources-operated FEL 2/14 block in the southern Porcupine basin off southwest Ireland, where one firm well is planned this year. In return for its stake, Cairn will pay 45% of costs of drilling 53/6-A well there in June 2017, subject to a gross well cap of $42mn. The block lies in 2,250 meters water depth. Cairn will also pay $2.82mn to Providence and partner Sosina, that being 30% of their sunk costs to mid-2016. If the trio agree to a subsequent appraisal well, Cairn will drill for 40% of its costs up to a gross cost of $42mn. The new equity stake in FEL 2/14, subject to Irish government approval of the farm-in, will be operator Providence 56%, Cairn 30% and Sosina 14%.

Stena ICEMax will drill the mid-2017 exploration well for Providence Resources off southwest Ireland (Photo credit: Sosina/Thomas Aanundsen)

Mark Smedley

Increasingly Violent Migrants Attacking Border Guards With Iron Bars, Spanish Minister Says

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 06:53

Breitbart News
by Antonio Sempere/AFP/Getty Images
by Nick Hallett

Attempts by migrants to break through the border into the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are becoming increasingly violent, the country’s security minister has warned.

José Antonio Nieto said attempts to cross the border fence at Ceuta had become “more dangerous and violent” in recent months, with migrants not only using sticks but even iron bars and wire cutters to attack border guards.

The Interior Ministry revealed 3,144 immigrants had illegally entered Spain so far this year, half of them by crossing into Ceuta and Melilla, which have the European Union’s only land border with Africa.

In one incident last month, 496 immigrants managed to get across the border fence leaving 15 police officers injured.

However, TV station Cuatro reports Mr. Nieto said there would be no radical change in migration policy to deal with the influx. Instead, the Interior Ministry will consider using drones to patrol the border and increasing the number of officers in each of the territories.

Footage released in February showed migrants celebrating in the streets of Ceuta after breaking through the fence, some holding EU flags and others chanting “Freedom! Freedom!”.

The territory’s migrant processing centre was already struggling to cope with the heavy number of new arrivals and had to put up tents at a local sports centre to deal with the influx.

Analysts believe thousands of sub-Saharan Africans may have travelled up through Morocco in a bid to reach the Spanish exclaves. Once on EU territory, it becomes much easier for them to travel across Europe.

In January, more the 1,000 tried to storm the border in a single night. However, none successfully managed to break through.

Spanish government officials at the time reported migrants trying “to force open some of the doors in the external fence, using iron bars, wire cutters and large stones with which they assaulted Moroccan forces and (Spanish) Guardia Civil (police) agents”.

Flintlock 2017 Exercise Enhances Interoperability In Africa

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 06:41

Defense.gov
By Marine Corps Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler
U.S. Africa Command

SOUTHERN ZONE, Morocco — Military representatives from Morocco and the United States held an opening ceremony Feb. 27 for the Flintlock 2017 exercise at the Tifnit training base here, marking another milestone in a relationship between their nations that began in the 1700s.

Members of Morocco’s special operations forces clear buildings during a direct action raid as part of the Flintlock 2017 exercise in Chtouka Ait Baha province, Morocco, March 3, 2017. The operators partnered with Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command throughout the exercise to build interoperability and support their common goal of countering violent extremism across the region. Portions of this photo have been blurred for security purposes. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Nick Mannweiler

More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations are participating in the 10th annual iteration of the exercise, which continues until March 16 across seven African host nations.

The exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information and develops interoperability among counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.

Deep U.S.-Morocco Roots

African partner special operations forces and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa jointly plan and execute the exercise, highlighting the sense of shared purpose across the continent as partners strengthen themselves and their regional network against violent extremists. For Morocco and the United States, the roots run deep in this partnership.

Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786 between U.S. Minister Thomas Barclay and the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Muhammad, in Marrakesh, according to the U.S. State Department website. The relationship matured with the naming of James Simpson as the first American consul in 1797 in Tangier. Sultan Mawlay Suleiman gifted the consulate a building and grounds to use, marking the first property owned by the U.S. government on foreign shores. In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco. Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.

“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks,” Morocco’s special operations command exercise instructor said.

‘A Golden Opportunity’

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, delivered remarks on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.

“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. “We will stand ready and willing to take maximum benefit from this period of training to further promote our knowledge and know-how in the field of special forces,” he said.

Marines from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command are training alongside their Moroccan peers, refining tactics, techniques and procedures across multiple full-mission profiles. The two forces specifically are training on small-unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control, and force protection.

The shared training experiences will develop the two partners’ ability to plan, coordinate and operate as an integrated team and will strengthen the bond between the two countries. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces have contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world and provide a center of stability and security across the Sahel region.

Countering the threat posed by violent extremist organizations around the world demands proficiency, coordination and enhanced interoperability. While regional security is the main focus of Flintlock 2017, the lessons learned and investments in relationships will allow participants to share the burdens of managing conflicts and improve their ability to provide security solutions that meet threats at their origin, exercise officials said.

Polisario Blames Morocco For UN W Sahara Envoy Leaving

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 03:01

News 24
AFP

An official from the Polisario Front fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara on Tuesday blamed Morocco for the resignation of a UN envoy to the disputed territory.

Christopher Ross’ quitting last week was a result of “Morocco blocking negotiations since 2012” on the future of the former Spanish colony, M’hamed Kheddad said.

Morocco insists that the Western Sahara is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Algeria-based Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination.

The two sides fought for control of the territory from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of it before a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect.

Ross submitted his resignation after spending eight years trying to resolve the dispute.

An American who served as US ambassador to Algeria and Syria, he had been harshly criticised by Morocco who accused him of being pro-Polisario.

Morocco has not officially reacted to the news of Ross’s resignation.

After then UN chief Ban Ki-moon last year used the term “occupation” to describe the status of Western Sahara, Morocco reacted with fury and expelled dozens of staff from the world body’s MINURSO mission in the territory.

Kheddad on Tuesday also blamed the resignation on “the indifference of the Security Council over the expulsion of (MINURSO) staff”.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, declared by the Polisario in 1976, is a full member of the African Union.

Morocco left what was then the Organisation of African Unity in 1984 after the SADR was admitted, but was readmitted at an AU summit at the end of January.

U.N. Envoy For Western Sahara Offers Resignation

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 18:49

Reuters
by Michelle Nichols

The United Nations envoy for the disputed Western Sahara territory has offered his resignation after eight years of trying to bring the Polisario independence movement and Morocco back to negotiations to end their conflict.

Morocco took most of Western Sahara in 1975 following the withdrawal of the colonial power Spain. The Polisario Front, which says the territory belongs to ethnic Sahrawis, waged a guerrilla war until a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in 1991.

U.N. attempts to hold a referendum on the future of the region have failed since then, with the two sides deadlocked. Christopher Ross has been the U.N. special envoy for Western Sahara since January 2009, when he was appointed by the then U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told reporters on Monday that Ross had offered his resignation.

“He has worked for eight years to try to come up with a framework by which the parties … would be able to renew negotiations, on an unconditional basis, about the permanent settlement of this dispute,” Feltman said.

“He has been unable to bring the parties back to negotiations and … he has offered his resignation to the secretary-general for the secretary-general to act upon at a time that he sees fit,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres succeeded Ban on Jan. 1.

Morocco last month announced the withdrawal of its forces from a U.N. buffer zone in the disputed Western Sahara territory, where for months they had been in a standoff with troops from the Polisario independence movement.

The move took place days after a phone call between Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and Guterres, reducing military tensions in Guerguerat, a remote area in Western Sahara near Mauritania.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Students Of Florida International University Explore The Contemporary Problems Of Public Administration At Regional And Local Levels In Africa

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 15:17

Satellite PR Newswire

From 5 to 10 March 2017, the African Local Government Academy (ALGA), a flagship project of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) (www.UCLGA.org) and Florida International University (FIU) in the United States have organised a study visit to the Kingdom of Morocco for PhD and Master’s students.

This will be the third study trip organised by FIU for the benefit of its students with the first edition taking place in Bulgaria (2013), the second in the Kingdom of Morocco in 2014, which inspired this 2017 edition in Morocco again.

This study visit has been arranged in partnership with the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Administration (ENSA), the University of Al Akhawayn (AUI) and the International University of Rabat (UIR), with backing from the Moroccan authorities, on the theme: ‘Contemporary issues of public administration at regional and local levels’.

In positioning ALGA as an organisation that is opened to collaboration on the continent the exchange is aimed at introducing students of FIU to the key issues and challenges of Public Administration, both in Morocco and Africa, as well as to fundamental reforms and good practice implemented to deal with them at a national, regional and local level.

A group of 14 people will take part in this exchange of experiences with 12 sessions moderated by senior officials, university professors, and practitioners in the towns of Rabat, Ifrane, Azrou, Fez and Marrakech covering:

The challenges of decentralisation in Africa and the way in which UCLG Africa seeks to address them through advocacy, support, training and capacity building, networking and the integration of a gendered approach;

The place of Public Administration in the dynamic of development in Morocco;

The key reforms underway concerning Advanced Regionalisation in Morocco.

The study visit will also be punctuated by visits to institutions and opportunities for cultural exchange.

Coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day, this group, comprising largely women, will also benefit from a presentation on ‘Promoting the status and leadership of women in Moroccan Public Administration’ on 7 March as a flagship experience in terms of the Continent.

This exchange will also be an opportunity for UCLG Africa and its Academy to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership, particularly in the areas of training, capacity building and research.

Two Yves Saint Laurent Museums To Open In Paris And Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 15:12

Yahoo News
AFP News

Two museums dedicated to the life and work of fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent will open in Paris and Morocco later this year, his foundation said Tuesday.

The larger museum in Marrakesh — where the late designer often retreated to work in the home he shared with his partner Pierre Berge — hopes to attract up to 700,000 visitors a year.

“Both museums are aimed at the general public as well as fashion lovers. Yves Saint Laurent was a major artist of the 20th century,” the couple’s foundation said in a statement.

It holds a collection of more than 5,000 outfits and 15,000 accessories the Algerian-born designer created during his 40-year career.

Berge opened Morocco’s first museum of Moroccan Berber art in 2011 — three years after the death of his partner — to house the collection they built together.

The new purpose-built Marrakesh museum is near the historic riad mansion the couple shared.
Both museums will open in October, with the Paris site housed inside the foundation’s headquarters.

Morocco Applies To Join West African Regional Economic Bloc

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 13:02

Associated Press
by Michelle Faul

Morocco is applying to join the Economic Community of West African States, the bloc confirmed Tuesday, a move that some analysts see as a continuation of checkbook diplomacy to consolidate the North African kingdom’s claim on Western Sahara.

Morocco’s application will be considered at the next summit of 15 member states in July, ECOWAS chairman Marcel de Souza said in a statement.

It would be “very surprising if it’s accepted,” said analyst Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies. Morocco is not geographically part of West Africa and culturally fits with Arab nations very different from those of sub-Saharan Africa.

The bid to join the West African bloc isn’t to pursue trade and investment, Louw-Vaudran said. Morocco “wants to sit at the political table and just realized it doesn’t want to be the black sheep of the African continent anymore.”

The move comes after Morocco in January rejoined the African Union with 39 nations voting in its favor. The 54-nation pan-African body in 1984 recognized Western Sahara as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, leading Morocco to storm out. Western Sahara remains an AU member.

Morocco claims Western Sahara as its “southern provinces.” A United Nations resolution for decades has called for a referendum to decide its fate.

Oil companies have abandoned exploration there, and European fishing companies have withdrawn fleets because of the tensions. In December, the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled that Morocco must exclude products from Western Sahara from its exports to member states.

But Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has been traveling around Africa in recent months signing multibillion-dollar deals including with Ghana and Nigeria. Last month he visited Guinea, whose president chairs the West African bloc.

Last week the king spoke by telephone to Nigeria’s ailing President Muhammadu Buhari in London. He was just the second leader Buhari is reported to have spoken to this year, after U.S. President Donald Trump.

Morocco is “riding this wave of acceptance and the king’s strong bilateral relations and checkbook diplomacy,” dividing the continent where many remember the African Union was created in part to get rid of colonization, said Louw-Vaudran.

Morocco is so confident it even is suggesting it host the next African Union summit, she said.

A New Futuristic Building In Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 09:48

Open PR

Mitsubishi Electric Hydronics and IT Cooling Systems, through its brand Climaveneta, supplied the air conditioning units to the Grand Theatre de Rabat, which is under construction in Morocco.

The futuristic building was designed by Zaha Hadid and its shape was inspired by the nearby Bouregreg River.

The project, part of a national programme of cultural development, includes a 1800-seat theatre, an open-air amphitheatre with a capacity of 7,000 people, a second experimental performance / rehearsal spaces, and a restaurant for 350 people.

To combine perfect internal comfort and high energy performance of the building, the HVAC system was designed starting from Climaveneta high efficiency units: 2 multi-purpose heat pumps NECS-Q/B 3218 and 1 air cooled chiller NECS/B 3218.

The system is therefore able to provide the ideal temperature and humidity level inside the building all year round, even producing simultaneous cooling and heating when necessary, thanks to the multi-purpose units installed. The system has a total cooling capacity of 2,500 kW, granting an ideal temperature even in the Moroccan hot summers.

Follow Climaveneta:
www.climaveneta.com
youtube.com/user/climavenetaweb, @ClimavenetaHVAC, linkedin.com/company/climaveneta, facebook.com/climavenetahvac/

Media Relations
Sara Di Clemente
sara.diclemente@melcohit.com

Climaveneta, a leading brand in HVAC and HPAC with more than 40 years’s experience provides energy efficient heating, air conditioning and data center cooling solutions that enhance everyone’s comfort, improve the profitability of a building and do not contribute to an increase in CO2 levels.

Mitsubishi Electric Hydronics & IT Cooling Systems
Climaveneta
Plant of via Sarson, 57/c
36061 Bassano del Grappa (VI)
Italy
+390424509500
www.climaveneta.com

This release was published on openPR.

IsDB Group Sets Out A Roadmap To Promote The Arab-African Trade

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 03/06/2017 - 14:29

CPI FINANCIAL
by Matthew Amlôt

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group is leading a roadmap to strengthen the Arab – Sub-Saharan Africa in the next three years.

The IsDB roadmap includes identifying business opportunities and the areas of finance, building logistics platform, supporting trade, credit and insurance, and developing the necessary infrastructure to facilitate trade.

IsDB Group President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, and Mr. Mamoun Buhedod, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy in charge of Microenterprises and the Integration of the Informal Sector in the Kingdom of Morocco, inaugurated the Arab-African Trade Bridges (AATB) forum, held on February 22-24 in Rabat.

Addressing the event, the IsDB Group President said that the volume of Bank’s support for development programmes and infrastructure projects in Africa has reached more than $43 billion, which included funding for projects in infrastructure. He added that the volume of trade financing granted to Arab and African member countries since the establishment of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), which is IsDB’s trade financing arm, has reached about $15 billion, in addition to cooperation with many strategic partners to design and implement a number of programmes and activities for the development of trade amongst member countries.

The IsDB Group President then urged Arab and Sub-Saharan African countries to take advantage of capacity development programmes to be available thanks to the “Arab-African Trade Bridges” programme over the next three years.

The participants in the forum and side events were trade ministers, directors of trade promotion agencies, presidents of the chambers of commerce and industry representing OIC Arab and Sub-Saharan African member countries, as well as international financial institutions and banks.
A number of memorandums of understanding were signed between the main participants during the forum’s inauguration ceremony.

The initiative of the “Trade Bridges between Arab and Sub-Saharan African countries” forum was proposed by ITFC during the seventh meeting of the Coordination Group to support cooperation in the field of foreign trade and export credit. Besides ITFC, the Coordination Group includes: the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICD), the Arab Trade Financing Program, the Arab Monetary Fund, the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Saudi Fund for Development and the Arab Investment & Export Credit Guarantee Corporation.

While in Morocco, Dr. Bandar Hajjar also visited two major projects funded by IsDB in the city of Kenitra. The first was Kenitra Power Station with a capacity of 315 MW which practically supports the National Electricity Office meet the growing demand for electric power and support the economic and industrial growth in the country. The second project, still under construction, was the high-speed train, to which IsDB has been funnelling funds for construction of the rails for three new stations:

Kenitra, Tangiers and Casablanca.

Furthermore, the IsDB Group Chairman also attended a workshop of potential partners in a pilot programme launched by the IsDB in partnership with the World Bank, known as “Education for Competitiveness (E4C).” This initiative aims to modernise and strengthen the educational systems in the Middle East and empower young people in the region to get better jobs in a world of increasing competition through harmonising education outputs with labour market requirements.

During IsDB Group President’s visit to Morocco, the Bank organised, jointly with the Federation of Moroccan Entrepreneurs and the Union of Moroccan Consultants, a workshop on job opportunities provided by IsDB for contractors and consulting firms through its portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa. The workshop reviewed the procurement and funding mechanisms, methods of supporting the private sector, and mechanisms of communicating offered opportunities.

Morocco Central Bank Okays Islamic Financial Products

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 16:11

Iol
Reuters

Morocco’s central bank has approved the use of five types of Islamic banking transaction, giving a final regulatory nod for the country to launch an Islamic finance industry.

Islamic banks and insurers are setting up in Morocco after new legislation allowed them into the market, and the central bank has set up a central sharia board, a body of Islamic scholars, to oversee the sector.

The North African country long rejected Islamic banking because of concern about Islamist movements, but its financial markets lack liquidity and foreign investors, and Islamic finance could attract both of those.

In circulars published in the official bulletin over the weekend, Morocco’s central bank said any Islamic transaction would be subject to preliminary approval by the sharia board, called the Sharia Committee for Participative Finance.

The central bank said it was allowing five common types of transaction: murabaha, musharaka, ijara, mudaraba and salam. It also set regulations for conventional banks to open windows selling Islamic products.

It had given regulatory approval to three major Moroccan banks to open Islamic subsidiaries: Attijariwafa Bank, BMCE of Africa and Banque Centrale Populaire, as well as to smaller lenders Credit Agricole and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier.

Subsidiaries of Societe Generale of France, Credit du Maroc and BMCI have also won permission to sell Islamic products.

The circulars lay down conditions and regulatory frameworks for banks to manage deposits, funds and investments under sharia principles, which ban interest and pure monetary speculation.

Morocco’s government plans to issue its first Islamic bond in the domestic market in the first half of 2017; experts said that would stimulate business in the sector. However, parliament has yet to approve a bill regulating Islamic insurance.

Reuters

Morocco, The Western Sahara And Democracy

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 07:46

Middle East Monitor
Ali Anouzla

This issue will not be solved unless a solution to the problem of democracy in the region can be found.

In a unilateral move, Morocco has decided to withdraw from the Alkrkrat Sahara region, fuelling a conflict that was already on the verge of eruption in the area.

For those who do not know the geography of the region, Alkrkrat is a buffer zone between the southern border of the Sahara region and the northern border of Mauritania. It lies directly behind the sand barrier built by Morocco at the end of the 1980s to protect the cities in the Sahara from attacks by Polisario fighters. It is the longest military security fence in the world. The Moroccan army built the fence to protect the cities (and villages) of the Sahara region that were under Moroccan administration from attacks by the Polisario.

The Moroccan Army left a buffer area between the area and Algeria to the east, and between the area and Mauritania to the south, in order to avoid any friction with its two neighbours during its pursuit of fighters who used these two countries as a rear base to launch attacks against Moroccan troops. Polisario camps are still found in southern Algeria in the Tindouf area.

Morocco’s decision is judicious given that the area it has decided to withdraw from was considered a “buffer zone” and is nicknamed “Switzerland” by smugglers due to the absence of any government authority in the area. A small strip separates the last Moroccan customs point in the Saharan region and the first customs point on northern Mauritanian soil. Thus, the Moroccan decision to “retreat” is a political and a symbolic one, intended to send a message to the new UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, that the Moroccan state is extending a hand of cooperation to the UN, under the leadership of the new Secretary-General, to find a solution to the oldest conflict on the continent.

On the other side, the Polisario Front celebrated what it considered its “military victory”, exploiting it as positive publicity, particularly as this is the first major development to take place under its new leadership after the death of its former leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz. The group is facing a real test of its continued adherence to its project to establish a “Sahrawi state” in the region.

However, what it is now called the “Alkrkrat conflict” is only an echo of a diplomatic battle taking place within the corridors of the African Union, which Morocco recently rejoined more than 32 years after leaving. By sending its forces to an area considered to be an “isolated” zone, Morocco is seeking to confirm its “sovereignty” over the Sahara region, thus considering the region’s borders part of its own territory. This is in full conformity with the African Union’s Charter, which considers that the borders of its Member States are “sacred” and unchangeable. The Polisario Front is seeking to display its military force in this buffer zone to remind the African Union’s members of its struggle with Morocco, the “old/new” member of the organisation.

Evidently, this conflict has not been resolved by a war that has lasted for 16 years between the two parties, claiming the lives of many victims on both sides. Given that it will not be resolved by a new war, neither of the parties is seeking to ignite one, even if they pretend to wish to do so. Thus, the natural solution to this chronic conflict that has become a burden on the Maghreb region, from Morocco to Libya, passing through Mauritania, is a return to the negotiating table to engage seriously in finding possible solutions. Such a dialogue cannot be effective without the participation of a key party, Algeria, which hosts the Polisario Front in its territory and has the ability to influence its decisions.

So far, Morocco has put forward a proposal to grant the population of the region self-rule under Moroccan sovereignty, while the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, is holding onto the right of the “Sahrawi people” to “self-determination”.

Faced with the refusal of each party to alter their position, the conflict has reached an impasse. The victims of this conflict today are the thousands living in tragic conditions in the Polisario camps in southern Algeria, as well as the millions of people in Morocco and Algeria who are paying the billions of dollars a year being spent on arms. Added to these are the millions of residents of the nations of the Maghreb region who are, on a daily basis, paying for the absence of am Arab Maghreb Union able to establish a wider Maghreb market, grant its people dignity and save them from being forced to migrate to the West and beg at its doors. Instead, the conflict has created conditions for the transformation of their countries into fertile ground for the export of immigrants, smugglers, criminals, and terrorists.

As I have written many times before, the primary cause of the Western Sahara issue since the 1970s, before it being an issue between two or three parties, is the absence of democracy in the region, especially in Morocco and Algeria at that time. The continuation of the conflict today is the continuation of this great “deficit ” in democracy that the region still suffers from. The issue will not be solved unless the problem of democracy in the region is solved. But it seems that none of the parties to the conflict or those affected are trying to do this. So the crisis will continue, along with despair until the dawn of democracy shines over the region. But that is still in the distant future.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid , 1 March, 2017

Algerian diplomacy destabilized by Morocco’s application for membership to ECOWAS

Sahara News - Fri, 03/03/2017 - 11:22
The Algerian regime, which has closed its borders with its Moroccan neighbor since 1994 and which continues to support the Polisario separatists, is seemingly destabilized by Morocco’s application to become a full-fledged member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). After it failed to prevent Morocco from returning to the African Union, Algerian […]

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