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Kentucky Air Guard Trains With Troops From 11 Nations In Morocco For African Lion

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 15:03

DVID’S
Photo By Master Sgt. Philip Speck
Senior Airman Judson Wisley

More than 75 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to Spain and Morocco this spring for African Lion, a multinational exercise that tested the interoperability of military troops from 11 countries.

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing and three of the unit’s C-130 aircraft joined forces with Airmen from U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Forces Africa joint tactical air controllers, the Utah Air National Guard, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces and troops from nine other nations.

“Multinational exercises give us an opportunity to train together, allow us to support joint and total forces and strengthen our skills for future operations,” said Lt. Col. Jason Johnson, U.S. Air Force lead commander for the exercise, which ran from April 19 to 28.

The U.S. Air Force’s participation in the U.S. Marine Corps-led exercise provided several joint training opportunities for U.S. military branches and Moroccan forces, according to said Capt. Tristan Stonger, 123rd Airlift Wing exercise project officer. It also provided an opportunity to reinforce lessons learned from past African Lion exercises and helped build upon a foundation for future military cooperation and engagements.

“Working in a new environment with other U.S. military branches and the Moroccans gives us the opportunity to hone and refine our skills and enhances our professional relationships, allowing us to support the interoperability of forces,” Stonger said.

In addition to building relationships between the branches of the military and the Kingdom of Morocco, the wing was able to perform several different training scenarios to prepare for future deployments, including low-level air drops and low-level navigation through the mountains of North Africa.

“This type of training helps keep our aircrews current and fully prepared and trained for any type of airlift operation that our nation calls for,” said Maj. Penn Brown, a pilot for Kentucky’s 165th Airlift Squadron.

This annually scheduled, combined multilateral exercise aims to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures while demonstrating the strong bond between the nations’ militaries. In addition to forces from the United States and Morocco, other participating nations were Germany, Senegal, Mauritania, Canada, France, Spain, Great Britain, Mali and Tunisia.

NEWS INFO

Date Taken: 06.09.2017
Date Posted: 06.09.2017 10:07
Story ID: 237033
Location: NAVAL STATION ROTA, ES

Court Ruling On Seized Phosphate Shipment Delayed

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 14:24

Radio New Zealand

A shipment of phosphate bound for New Zealand faces another week of detention in South Africa after a court ruling on the cargo was delayed.

The NM Cherry Blossom was carrying 50,000 tonnes of phosphate rock when it was stopped at Port Elizabeth. Photo: Supplied / M.L. Jacobs MarineTraffic.com

The NM Cherry Blossom was carrying 54,000 tonnes of phosphate rock – one eighth of New Zealand’s annual needs – when it was stopped at Port Elizabeth en route for Tauranga.

Activists then went to court, saying the fertiliser had been mined illegally in the Western Sahara, a desert territory controlled by Morocco.

Morocco’s right to this land is disputed.

The South African judges were expected to deliver their verdict today but they have put off their decision until next Thursday.

New Zealand needs phosphate for its agriculture because the mineral is essential for plant growth.

Morocco and Western Sahara are by far the biggest exporters of the rock.

Western Sahara was a Spanish colony that was taken over by Morocco in the 1970s.

The seized shipment had been contracted by the fertiliser company Ballance Agri Nutrients.

This company has another vessel en route for New Zealand, which is believed to be travelling via Cape Horn to avoid a repetition of the problems in South Africa.

Independence campaigners for Western Sahara have been targeting phosphate shipments after the European Court ruled last year that Western Sahara should not be considered part of Morocco for trade purposes.

Parallel case in Panama

Meanwhile a parallel case has been resolved in Panama.

In that case, a shipment of phosphate was detained while transiting the Panama Canal en route for western Canada.

The vessel was later released after posting a bond.

But in a new development, a court in Panama has thrown out a case brought by the Western Sahara independence campaigners.

The judges ruled their court was not the appropriate venue to resolve a political dispute.

Ballance Agri Nutrients has been watching the Panamanian case for any clues on the outcome of its own case.

Morocco Marks First Africa Day After Rejoining AU

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 11:19

Source: Xinhua
Editor: yan

Moroccan Foreign Ministry organized the Africa Day Celebration here on Thursday under the theme “Morocco as an actor for collective emergence in Africa.”

At the opening of the first edition in Morocco as a member of the African Union (AU), Nasser Bourita, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said 2017 has been an “exceptional” year in the relationships between Morocco and African countries.

In February, Morocco rejoined the AU after 33 years of absence.

Morocco’s return to AU has crowned its strong commitment to Africa’s peace, stability and prosperity, Bourita said.

He noted that two thirds of Morocco’s foreign investments are directed toward Africa, making the kingdom the largest African investor in West Africa and the second in the continent.

According to the minister, more than a thousand Moroccan companies are operating in Africa and invested 2.2 billion U.S. dollars between 2008 and 2015.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani and ambassadors of foreign countries also attended the celebration.

Panama Court Dismisses Western Sahara Phosphate Claim – Morocco’s OCP

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 03:34

Daily Mail
by Reuters
by Samia Errazzouki

A Panama court dismissed a case by the Western Sahara Polisario independence movement to block a Moroccan shipment of phosphate in Panama saying there was no evidence the cargo belonged to the group, the Moroccan phosphate producer said on Thursday.

Polisario in May filed a claim to hold the Danish charter vessel Ultra Innovation, carrying 55,000 tonnes of phosphate rock from Morocco’s Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP), through Panama to the Port of Vancouver for the Canadian company Agrium.

The detention of the vessel was a new legal tactic by the independence movement in its conflict with Morocco over Western Sahara, a disputed territory where the two sides fought a war until a 1991 ceasefire.

“The court ruled that a domestic court is not the appropriate venue to consider purely political matters. It also ruled there is indeed no evidence demonstrating that the cargo on board belongs to the plaintiffs,” OCP said in a statement.

Panama court authorities were not immediately available for comment to confirm the OCP statement. Polisario said its lawyers were not aware of such a decision.

In late May, Panama judicial sources and Agrium said the shipping company posted a bond for the release of the ship.

By trying to seize Moroccan phosphate vessels, Polisario had tested a European court ruling last year that Western Sahara should not be considered part of the Moroccan kingdom in EU and Moroccan deals. Polisario said phosphate shipped from the disputed territory does not belong to Morocco.

Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975, when Morocco claimed it as part of the kingdom and the Polisario fought a guerrilla war for the Sahrawi people’s independence. A 1991 ceasefire split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern provinces and an area controlled by Polisario.

Morocco’s OCP is the world’s leading phosphate exporter and operates in the Moroccan-held areas.

U.N.-backed negotiations have failed for years to end the dispute. Morocco wants the region to have autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Polisario wants to hold a referendum on self-determination, including on the question of independence.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Adrian Croft)

Panama Court Dismisses Western Sahara Phosphate Claim – Morocco’s OCP

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 15:08

NASDAQ
by Samia Errazzouki

A Panama court dismissed a case by the Western Sahara Polisario independence movement to block a Moroccan shipment of phosphate in Panama saying there was no evidence the cargo belonged to the group, the Moroccan phosphate producer said on Thursday.

Polisario in May filed a claim to hold the Danish charter vessel Ultra Innovation, carrying 55,000 tonnes of phosphate rock from Morocco’s Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP), through Panama to the Port of Vancouver for the Canadian company Agrium.

The detention of the vessel was a new legal tactic by the independence movement in its conflict with Morocco over Western Sahara, a disputed territory where the two sides fought a war until a 1991 ceasefire. “The court ruled that a domestic court is not the appropriate venue to consider purely political matters. It also ruled there is indeed no evidence demonstrating that the cargo on board belongs to the plaintiffs,” OCP said in a statement.

Panama court authorities were not immediately available for comment to confirm the OCP statement. Polisario said its lawyers were not aware of such a decision. In late May, Panama judicial sources and Agrium said the shipping company posted a bond for the release of the ship. By trying to seize Moroccan phosphate vessels, Polisario had tested a European court ruling last year that Western Sahara should not be considered part of the Moroccan kingdom in EU and Moroccan deals.

Polisario said phosphate shipped from the disputed territory does not belong to Morocco. Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975, when Morocco claimed it as part of the kingdom and the Polisario fought a guerrilla war for the Sahrawi people’s independence. A 1991 ceasefire split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern provinces and an area controlled by Polisario.

Morocco’s OCP is the world’s leading phosphate exporter and operates in the Moroccan-held areas. U.N.-backed negotiations have failed for years to end the dispute. Morocco wants the region to have autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Polisario wants to hold a referendum on self-determination, including on the question of independence.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Adrian Croft) ((pat.markey@thomsonreuters.com; +213-661-692993; Reuters Messaging: pat.markey.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: WESTERNSAHARA MOROCCO/PANAMA (UPDATE 1)

Ancient Fossils From Morocco Mess Up Modern Human Origins

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 14:55

Scientific American
by Kate Wong

Dated to more than 300,000 years ago, the finds raise key questions about the defining features of Homo sapiens and how our kind came to be.

The year was 1961. A barite mining operation at the Jebel Irhoud massif in Morocco, some 100 kilometers west of Marrakech, turned up a fossil human skull. Subsequent excavation uncovered more bones from other individuals, along with animal remains and stone tools. Scientists’ best guess was that the remains were about 40,000 years old and represented African versions of Neandertals.

In the decades that followed, researchers shifted their stance on the identity of the remains, coming to see them as members of our own species, Homo sapiens—and they redated the site to roughly 160,000 years ago. Still, the Jebel Irhoud fossils remained something of a mystery, because in some respects they looked more primitive than older H. sapiensfossils.

Now new evidence is rewriting the story of Jebel Irhoud once again. A team led by Jean-Jacques Hublin of Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany has recovered more human fossils and more stone tools, along with compelling evidence the site is double the age experts previously believed it to be. The researchers describe their findings in papers published this week in Nature.

If the fossils do in fact represent H. sapiens,as the team argues, the finds push back the origin of our species by more than 100,000 years and challenge leading ideas about where and how our lineage evolved. But other scientists disagree about what, exactly, the new findings mean. In a way, far from tidily solving the puzzle of our origins, the Jebel Irhoud discoveries add to mounting evidence that the dawning of our kind was a very complicated affair.

The reconstructed composite reveals a short, modern-looking face paired with a long, low braincase that calls to mind archaic humans. Credit: Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig

Experts have long recognized that H. sapiensgot its start in Africa. Up to this point, the oldest commonly accepted traces of our species were in Ethiopia: 195,000-year-old remains from the site of Omo Kibish and 160,000-year-old fossils from Herto. Yet hints that our species might have deeper roots had come to light. For instance, a skull with some modern characteristics from Florisbad, South Africa, was dated to 259,000 years ago—but the skull was assigned to a more primitive species, Homo heidelbergensis, and the date was never widely accepted. Clues have also come from studies of DNA recovered from human fossils. In 2016 researchers led by Matthias Meyer, also at Max Planck, reported that they had recovered DNA from fossils at the Spanish site of Sima de los Huesos that indicated H. sapiens split from its closest evolutionary relatives, the Neandertals, more than 500,000 years ago, implying an older fossil record of H. sapiens remained to be discovered.

To that end, Hublin and his colleagues have unearthed fossils of several other individuals from a part of the Jebel Irhoud site that the miners had not disturbed in the 1960s. Their finds included skull and lower jawbones as well as stone tools and the remains of animals the humans hunted. Multiple dating techniques indicate the stratigraphic layer from which the fossils and artifacts were recovered dates to between 350,000 and 280,000 years ago.

Analyzing the sizes and shapes of the Jebel Irhoud bones, the researchers found that the form of the face, lower jaw and teeth was distinct from Neandertals and other archaic humans. In these features the Jebel Irhoud remains resembled H. sapiens. The braincase, however, lacks the round shape characteristic of modern humans and instead has the elongate shape seen in archaic humans. Such differences in braincase shape are associated with differences in brain organization. All things considered, the team concluded the Jebel Irhoud remains represent “the very root of our species, the oldest H. sapiens ever found in Africa or elsewhere,” Hublin said at a press teleconference. The remains reveal a group that did not have all of our hallmark traits yet but whose form could have gradually evolved directly into that seen in people today, he and his colleagues report in their paper describing the fossils.

Lower jawbone from Jebel Irhoud is nearly complete. Human fossils from this time period in Africa are exceedingly rare. Credit: Jean-Jacques Hublin, Leipzig

The discovery “allowed us to envision a more complex picture for the emergence of our species, with different parts of the anatomy evolving at different rates,” Hublin said. Some parts, such as the face, attained their modern form early on; others, including the brain, took longer to reach the modern condition. He added that the findings do not imply Morocco was the cradle of modern humankind. Instead, taken together with other fossil discoveries including the Florisbad skull, they suggest the emergence of H. sapiens was a pan-African affair. Hublin said that by 300,000 years ago, early H. sapiens had dispersed across the continent. This dispersal was helped by the fact that Africa was quite different back then—the Sahara was green, not the forbidding desert barrier that it is today.

The Jebel Irhoud discovery coincides with findings from a separate study of ancient DNAmade available this week on the bioRxiv preprint server ahead of peer review and publication. Carina Schlebusch and Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University in Sweden and their colleagues analyzed seven H. sapiens genomes from South Africa, from people who lived between 2,000 and 300 years ago. The researchers found that the groups to which these individuals belonged diverged more than 260,000 years ago, which would mean our species is at least that old. “The two new papers certainly complement each other,” observes evolutionary geneticist Alan Rogers of the University of Utah, who was not involved in either study. “The Jebel Irhoud paper tells us modern human morphology is older than we had thought. The Schlebusch et al paper says modern human populations have been separate for nearly this long.”

Not everyone is ready to accept the claim that the Jebel Irhoud fossils necessarily belong to H. sapiens, however. Paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin–Madison says their modern-looking traits might not actually reflect a connection to our species. He notes the analysis by Hublin and his colleagues did not compare the Jebel Irhoud remains with fossils from Spain dating to more than 800,000 years ago that belong to a species called H. antecessor.

“There is an archaic human population with facial morphology that resembles modern humans in many ways, and it is a lot older than Jebel Irhoud,” he says of H. antecessor. “Maybe Jebel Irhoud was evolving into modern humans, but another possibility is that it is retaining facial morphology from an H. antecessor–like population that may have been the last common ancestor of Neandertals and later African archaic humans.”

Indeed the new fossils “raise major questions about what features define our species,” observes paleoanthropologist Marta Lahr of the University of Cambridge in England. “[Is] it the globular skull, with its implications on brain reorganization, that make a fossil Homo sapiens? If so, the Irhoud population are our close cousins.” But if, on the other hand, a small face and the shape of the lower jaw are the key traits, then the Jebel Irhoud find could be one of our actual ancestors—and thus shift the focus of scientists who study modern human origins from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean—Lahr says.

Either way, the new discoveries seem poised to fan debate over who invented the artifacts of Africa’s Middle Stone Age (MSA) cultural period, which spanned the time between roughly 300,000 and 40,000 years ago. The archaeological record shows that during the MSA early humans across Africa and Eurasia moved away from making clunky handaxes to crafting more portable cutting tools using so-called Levallois methods for shaping stone. Researchers disagree about whether this new technology arose once and spread across the Old World as early humans dispersed or whether different populations invented the technology independently. And because the oldest MSA artifacts predated the oldest known H. sapiens fossils, experts had reason to believe that multiple species made MSA tools.

Stone tools from Jebel Irhoud show people in North Africa had so-called Middle Stone Age technology by 300,000 years ago. Credit: Mohammed Kamal, MPI EVA Leipzig

The new findings could change the equation, however. “I don’t believe the MSA is evolving independently all over the place, and the Irhoud date firmly places the earliest MSA within the sapiens lineage (or with sapiensitself depending on how the nomenclature issue settles), rather than before it,” Lahr says.

Other experts are cautious about linking the MSA to a particular species. “We have the potential for other lineages to still be on the landscape,” explains archaeologist Christian Tryon of Harvard University. “I’m hesitant to go straight from archaeology to species, particularly at 300,000 years ago, when [Homo] heidelbergensis and others may still have been running around.” Recently researchers dated fossils of Homo naledi, a small-brained human species whose remains have been found in South Africa, to between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago—meaning it was among the other humans on the scene during the MSA.

“The big story right now in human evolution is that Africa 250,000 years ago was not what we thought it was, and the formation of African modern human populations from that time period was a very complicated process,” Hawks says. “I think that people had this assumption that once you knew modern humans evolved in Africa, that solved everything. That assumption led to the notion that whatever African fossil record there was must be the ancestors of modern humans. It turns out that’s massively oversimplified. There are several different lineages of archaic humans, Homo naledi and others, that genetics is suggesting must have existed. And we don’t know how most of the fossils fit. That’s where Jebel Irhoud is—we now know its age, but we still don’t know how it fits in.”

The new finds “make the picture nicely complicated,” Tryon agrees. “I like a messy story and this contributes to it.” But it also means the scientists chasing the origins of our own species have their work cut out for them. Sometimes the most familiar things are also the most mysterious.

Total Looks At Downstream In Morocco, S.Africa To Spur Gas Demand

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 14:48

Yahoo Finance
Reuters – UK Focus
By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

France’s Total SA (Paris: FR0000120271 – news) is looking to invest in gas and power infrastructure projects in Morocco and South Africa as it seeks to open new markets, the company’s head of gas said on Thursday.

Total (LSE: 524773.L – news) will roughly double its liquefied natural gas (LNG) portfolio by 2020 to 15 million tonnes per year, but the company needs to look at deals that will give it footholds in new markets and capture new gas buyers, Laurent Vivier said.

Morocco plans to build a project, worth up to $4.6 billion, which includes the import of up to 7 billion cubic metres of gas by 2025, the construction of a jetty, terminal, pipelines and gas-fired power plants with capacity to produce up to 2,400 megawatts of electricity.

In January, Moroccan state-owned power utility ONEE picked HSBC as financial adviser for the project.

“Morocco wants to launch an onshore LNG terminal along with the power (infrastructure) behind it, and it wants the same company to be involved in all of this,” Vivier told Reuters during a visit to Copenhagen.

“If we said that we are not interested in power generation, we’d have to say no to these kinds of projects.”

He added that Total is also interested in a similar project in South Africa, where the government plans a 50 billion rand ($3.9 billion) gas-to-power development that will require 1.6 million tonnes a year of gas imports.

Total will take minority stakes in such projects, he said, noting that an average 400-megawatt combined-cycle power plant costs roughly $300 million to build.

“As long as it’s an integrated project and we can place our own production of gas in those projects, we are happy to look at this,” Vivier said.

In 2015, Total decided to remove coal-related businesses from its portfolio and said a move to gas from coal for energy can cut carbon emissions by 50 percent, a quick win for countries aiming to meet carbon emission reduction targets.

($1 = 12.8595 rand) (Additional reporting by Bate Felix in Paris; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Renault Exports 1 Million Vehicles From Morocco

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 14:44

ANSAmed

French car manufacturer Renault has exported its first million vehicles made in Morocco, the Tangier Med port authority has said. Renault Group began production in the north African country at its Casablanca plant in 2007.

It subsequently opened a second production site in Tangier in 2012. These two plants respectively export 95% and 70% of production to foreign markets. In addition to automobiles, Renault also exports component parts manufactured in Morocco to its other production sites in India, Romania, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. (ANSAmed).

Fitch: Islamic Banking A Modest Deposit Stimulus In Morocco

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 14:37

Cpi Financial
by Matthew Amlôt

Islamic banks, referred to as ‘participation banks’ in Morocco, are likely to provide a modest stimulus to deposit growth in the country, Fitch Ratings says. Morocco’s central bank granted its first licences to Islamic banks last week.

Our discussions with Fitch-rated banks indicate that the ability to offer Islamic banking products could expand their deposit bases by five per cent to 10 per cent. The ability to grow the deposit base is positive for Morocco’s economic development because deposits represent about 70 per cent of banking sector funding.

We expect growth of participation banks will be high initially, as was the case following the introduction of Islamic banking in Turkey and Indonesia. The ability to access Islamic products will ensure that customers have access to a more comprehensive range of services. Customers who have avoided transacting with conventional banks for Shari’ah-related reasons can now move into the formal banking sector.

However, banking penetration is already high in Morocco, with 70 per cent of adults holding a bank account, suggesting that most Moroccans have not shied away from the banking sector on faith grounds. Participation banking is therefore unlikely to take a significant market share from the well-established conventional banks.

The growth of participation banks will be affected by several factors, including the spread of awareness of Islamic finance, the extent to which the government stimulates expansion, population growth rates and regulatory developments. Positively, the central bank has established a central Shari’ah board of Islamic scholars to oversee the sector, which should help to provide a cohesive framework under which the banks can operate. Greater clarity on essential aspects, such as how participation banks will manage their liquidity in a Shari’ah-compliant manner and how financing contracts will be drawn up, would help to stimulate the sector. However, delays in establishing a clear framework could hinder the development of participation banks, forcing up funding costs and resulting in insufficient depth in product offerings.

Growth rates in the Moroccan banking sector have been volatile in recent years, reflecting unsteady economic trends. Deposit growth (nearly seven per cent in 2016) has outstripped loan growth (3.9 per cent) in recent years, but credit demand is set to accelerate in line with an improved economic outlook in 2017. This could force banks to compete more aggressively for deposits, putting pressure on margins at the conventional banks. The ability to offer participation banking services could broaden the pool of potential depositors in the country, mitigating the competitive pressure.

Only existing conventional banks have applied for participation banking licences and we are not aware of any independent Islamic banks making requests to operate in Morocco. Banks owned by domestic shareholders, such as Attijariwafa Bank, BMCE Bank, Groupe Banque Centrale Populaire and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier, have opted to establish separate participation banking subsidiaries, while subsidiaries controlled by French parents, such as Societe Generale Marocaine de Banques (controlled by Societe Generale), Banque Marocaine pour le Commerce et l’Industrie ( BILLIONP Paribas) and Credit du Maroc (Credit Agricole), have chosen to provide services through special Islamic banking ‘windows’.

Scientists Find Oldest Known Specimens Of The Human Species

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 08:07

Fox News
By Robert Lee Hotz

File photo: Skeletal remains from the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History, a permanent exhibition hall that presents the remarkable history of human evolution from our earliest ancestors millions of years ago to modern Homo sapiens, are seen in New York,February 7, 2007. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

The bones of ancient hunters unearthed in Morocco are the oldest known specimens of the human species, potentially pushing back the clock on the origin of modern Homo sapiens, scientists announced Wednesday.

Found among stone tools and the ashes of ancient campfires, the remains date from about 300,000 years ago, a time when the Sahara was green and several early human species roamed the world, the scientists said. That makes them about 100,000 years older than any other fossils of Homo sapiens—the species to which all people today belong.

“These dates were a big wow,” said anthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Leipzig, Germany. He led an international team of scientists who reported the discovery Wednesday in Nature. “This material represents the very roots of our species—the very oldest Homo sapiens found in Africa or anywhere.”

Until now, most researchers believed that modern humankind emerged gradually from a population centered in East Africa around 200,000 years ago. Previous discoveries of early Homo sapiens fossils have been concentrated at sites in Ethiopia.

This story originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

Morocco Airline Cancels Flights Via Doha To Arab States Over Qatar Dispute

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:59

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
by Samia Errazzouki

A 787 Dreamliner jet painted in Royal Air Maroc livery, sits idle on the tarmac parking at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante Reuters

Moroccan airline Royal Air Maroc cancelled flights via Doha to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt after they severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, state news agency MAP and the airline’s customer service said on Tuesday.

MAP said Royal Air Maroc flights via Doha to those countries could not be guaranteed, and the airline’s customer service said flights would no longer be available.

“Royal Air Maroc apologizes to its clients for these inconveniences caused by a situation outside of its control,” it said in a statement.

In 2015, Qatar Airways and Royal Air Maroc announced a joint business agreement on services and expanded direct flights between the countries.

Morocco has refrained from taking sides in the dispute between Qatar and other Arab states. But some of the Gulf nations are close allies of Morocco, which is a member of the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen against the Iran-allied Shi’ite Houthi militia.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Gareth Jones)

Morocco Airline Cancels Flights Via Doha To Arab States Over Qatar Dispute

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 08:54

Reuters
by Samia Errazzouki

Moroccan airline Royal Air Maroc cancelled flights via Doha to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt after they severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, state news agency MAP and the airline’s customer service said on Tuesday.

MAP said Royal Air Maroc flights via Doha to those countries could not be guaranteed, and the airline’s customer service said flights would no longer be available.

Morocco has refrained from taking sides in moves to isolate Qatar, but some of those Gulf nations are its close allies. Morocco is a member of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen against the Shi’ite Houthi militia.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

West Africa Bloc Agrees “In Principle” On Morocco Membership

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 16:05

ABC NEWS
by Jonathan Paye-Layleh, AP

An official with West Africa’s regional bloc says leaders of the 15-nation group have agreed “in principle” on Morocco’s membership application for membership, though more assessments will be made.

The official said Monday the ECOWAS commission will do its own study on Morocco’s possible membership and report back to heads of state, who instructed them to “examine the implications” of allowing Morocco to join.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press.

Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania will be invited to the next ECOWAS meeting in Togo in December. Tunisia is seeking observer status and Mauritania wishes to rejoin.

The consideration comes after Morocco’s King Mohammed VI canceled attendance to the Sunday ECOWAS gathering because Israel’s Prime Minister was attending.

Arab Powers Sever Qatar Ties, Citing Support For Militants

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:07

World Affairs Jounal
TOP NEWS
By Noah Browning | DUBAI

The Arab world’s biggest powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran, and reopening a festering wound two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives joined later. Transport links shut down, triggering supply shortages.

Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people that has a large U.S. military base, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants. It has often been accused of being a funding source for Islamists, as has Saudi Arabia.

Iran, long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move, blamed Trump’s visit last month to Riyadh and called for the sides to overcome their differences.

“What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance,” tweeted Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, referring to Trump’s joining in a traditional dance with the Saudi king at the meeting.

Closing all transport links with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt banned Qatari planes from landing and forbade them from crossing their air space.

Qatar’s stock market index sank 7.3 percent, with some of the market’s top blue chips hardest hit, and some Egyptian banks said they were suspending dealing with Qatari banks.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia stopped exports of white sugar to Qatar, a potential hit to consumers during the holy month of Ramadan, when demand is high. Some residents in Qatar began stockpiling food and supplies, an expatriate said.

“People have stormed into the supermarket hoarding food, especially imported ones. … It’s chaos – I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Eva Tobaji, an expatriate resident in Doha, told Reuters after returning from shopping.

Supply difficulties quickly developed. Two Middle East trade sources spoke of thousands of trucks carrying food stuck at the Saudi border, unable make the sole overland frontier crossing into Qatar.

About 80 percent of Qatar’s food requirements are sourced via bigger Gulf Arab neighbors. Trade sources pointed to the likelihood of shortages growing in Qatar until the crisis eased.

Along with Egypt, however, the UAE and Saudi Arabia could be vulnerable to retaliation, being highly dependent on Qatar for liquefied natural gas.

‘WORRISOME’

The hawkish tone on Tehran and on terrorism that Trump brought in his visit to Muslim leaders in Riyadh is seen as having laid the groundwork for the diplomatic crisis.

“You have a shift in the balance of power in the Gulf now because of the new presidency: Trump is strongly opposed to political Islam and Iran,” said Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

“He is totally aligned with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, who also want no compromise with either Iran or the political Islam promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The United States called for a quick resolution of the dispute, and does not want to see a “permanent rift,” a senior U.S. administration official said.

“There’s an acknowledgement that a lot of Qatari behavior is quite worrisome not just to our Gulf neighbors but to the U.S.,” the official said. “We want to bring them in the right direction.”

A State Department official said all U.S. partnerships with Gulf nations were vital and called on all parties to quickly resolve their differences.

The U.S. military said it had seen no impact to its Gulf-area operations, intended mainly as a bulwark against Iran, and added it was grateful for Qatar’s long-standing support of a U.S. presence and commitment to regional security.

The diplomatic bust-up threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which is set to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.

Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, said on Monday it was in “regular contact” with Qatar’s 2022 organizing committee, but did not comment directly on the diplomatic situation.

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Qatar’s backing of Islamists dates to a decision by the current emir’s father to end a tradition of automatic deference to Saudi Arabia, the dominant Gulf Arab power, and forge the widest possible array of allies.

Doha subsequently cultivated not only Islamists like America’s foes Iran, Hamas and the Taliban in pursuit of leverage, but also Washington itself, hosting the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East.

Qatar has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region’s many disputes. But Egypt and the Gulf Arab states resent Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a political enemy.

Muslim Brotherhood groups allied to Doha are now mostly on retreat in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected Islamist president.

The former army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with Cairo’s allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood says it supports only peaceful politics.

Saudi Arabia accused Qatar on Monday of backing militant groups and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

Later in the day, the kingdom shut the Saudi bureau of al Jazeera. Al Jazeera says it is an independent news service giving a voice to everyone in the region.

Riyadh also accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in the restive, largely Shi’ite Muslim-populated eastern Saudi region of Qatif, as well as in Bahrain.

Qatar denied it was interfering in the affairs of others.

“The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement.

Turkey also called for dialogue to settle the dispute and a government spokesman said President Tayyip Erdogan was working for a diplomatic solution to the rift.

Sudan expressed its concern over the row and offered to mediate between all sides.

FALLOUT

A split between Doha and its closest allies could have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The economic fallout was already hitting home as Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways, Dubai’s Emirates Airline and budget carriers Flydubai and Air Arabia said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha indefinitely from Tuesday morning.

Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia. Many Gulf airports, including in Qatar, are major hubs for international connecting flights.

The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled.

Neighboring Kuwait has been mediating in the dispute, and its emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, urged Qatar’s ruler to calm tensions and refrain from escalating the rift, Kuwait state news agency Kuna said.

Al-Sabah called on Qatar’s Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani to give efforts at mediation a chance to contain differences, a few hours after Khalid al-Faisal, an adviser to the Saudi king, visited Kuwait.

(Additional reporting by William Maclean, Parisa Hafezi, Omar Fahmy, Mohammed el-Sherif, Sylvia Westall, Tom Finn, Steve Holland, Amina Ismail and Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Larry King and Peter Cooney)

Saudi Arabia, Egypt Lead Arab States Cutting Qatar Ties, Iran Blames Trump

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 07:27

CNBC
Reuters with AP

A growing number of Arab nations have cut ties with Qatar.

The nations pointed to Doha’s alleged terrorism ties and their own national security.

The coordinated move escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and adds accusations that Doha backs the agenda of Iran.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Maldives severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism and opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.

Iran — long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move — immediately blamed President Donald Trumpfor setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh.

Gulf Arab states and Egypt have long resented Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a dangerous political enemy.

The coordinated move, with the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC.

Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups — some backed by regional archrival Iran — and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

“(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly,” Saudi state news agency SPA said.

It accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi’ite Muslim-populated eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.

Qatar said it was facing a campaign aimed at weakening it, denying it was interfering in the affairs of other countries.

“The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iran saw America pulling the strings.

“What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance,” Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted in a reference to Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

Justin Solomon | CNBC

Doha, Qatar.

Trump and other U.S. officials participated in a traditional sword dance during the trip in which he called on Muslim countries to stand united against Islamist extremists and singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Sydney on Monday that the spat would not affect the fight against Islamist militants and that Washington has encouraged its Gulf allies to resolve their differences.

A split between Doha and its closest allies can have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Qatar on Monday asked citizens to leave the United Arab Emirates within 14 days to comply with by Abu Dhabi’s severing of ties, the Qatari embassy in Abu Dhabi said on social media. Those who cannot travel directly to Doha should go through Kuwait or Oman, it said.

Economic fallout

The economic fallout loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Ethihad Airways, Dubai’s Emirates Airline and budget carrier Flydubai said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice.

Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia.

Fayez Nureldine | AFP | Getty Images

A picture taken on June 5, 2017 shows a Saudi woman and a boy walking past the Qatar Airways branch in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major gulf states and gas-rich Qatar.

Qatar’s stock market index sank 7.5 percent with some of the market’s top blue chips hardest hit.

The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled.

The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large U.S. military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region’s many disputes.

FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, said it remained in regular contact with Qatar, declining to elaborate.

Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the U.S.-based Baker Institute, said if Qatar’s land borders and airspace were closed for any length of time “it would wreak havoc on the timeline and delivery” of the World Cup.

“It seems that the Saudis and Emiratis feel emboldened by the alignment of their regional interests — toward Iran and Islamism — with the Trump administration,” Ulrichsen said. “(They) have decided to deal with Qatar’s alternative approach on the assumption that they will have the (Trump) administration’s backing.”

Qatar used its media and political clout to support long-repressed Islamists during the 2011 pro-democracy “Arab Spring” uprisings in several Arab countries.

Muslim Brotherhood groups allied to Doha are now mostly on the backfoot in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected Islamist president.

The former army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with the new government’s allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, said on its state news agency that Qatar’s policy “threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation.”

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has called on Egyptian businessmen to withdraw their investments and halt business dealings with the Gulf state, his spokesperson told Reuters on Monday.

Oil prices rose after the moves against Qatar, which is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate — a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas.

WATCH: Four Arab countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar

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Morocco’s Phosphate Exports Up By 11.5 pct

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 03:32

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua
Editor: xuxin

Morocco’s phosphate turnover registered 1.41 billion U.S. dollars in the first four months of 2017, an increase by 11.5 year-on-year, local media reported on Saturday.

The financial daily l’Economiste said this increase is the highest in five years, adding that the sector’s contribution in the country’s GDP raised from 16.2 percent to 17 percent year-on-year.

Citing official statistics, the daily noted that the highest increase was registered in fertilizers exports by 150 million U.S. dollars and crude phosphate by nearly 29 million U.S. dollars.

Morocco is one of the world largest phosphate producers. According to The United States Geological Survey, Morocco has the largest phosphate rock reserve base in the world, accounting for approximately 75 percent of worldwide estimates.

Muhammad The VI, King Of Stability

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 07:20

The Arab Times Kuwait
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

WHEN international institutions advise African nations to take a cue from the Moroccan experience in the fields of economic and industrial diversification, it requires deep thought because a country regarded as developing was able to take a giant stride within a decade.

The achievement was made possible due to the consistent performance of King Mohammad V1, internally or externally. The King encouraged international companies, especially those involved in vehicle assembly, to move some of their productions to the Kingdom, so it helped in solving several economic problems.

Since his ascendancy to power, the youthful King took several steps, different from the lines toed by governments in other countries. This is due to his belief that facing a problem squarely is the best way to solve it. For instance, he made the issue of returning into the fold of African Union a paramount objective, but with the need to maintain national norms and rights. He worked on this assiduously until Morocco entered the golden gate of the African continent. He was able to change the position over a thorny issue in African-Moroccan relations – the Sahara issue.

He worked towards opening the doors of his Kingdom to tourism such that the country became a major point of call on the world map. This coincides with massive development projects, particularly in the area of clean energy.

He paved the way for increasing foreign investments which attracted several entrepreneurs from the Arabian Gulf. This is in addition to building political and economic partnerships within the Arab world. He succeeded in bringing Morocco closer to GCC countries, better than any time in the past.

All this was for the sake of offering more opportunities to the people and enhancing social stability as the backbone of security and political stability. Furthermore, the more coherent the internal front is, the more difficult to penetrate it.

King Muhammad VI was the first among the leaders who responded to the demands of his people at the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring when he ordered amendment and modernization of laws and the Constitution.

The achievements of King Muhammad VI aroused the envy of some neighboring countries which did not wish good for Morocco due to differences in visions, approaches and political regimes. The political regime in Morocco is democratic, while dictators are dominating the neighboring countries. Everybody is aware of countless attempts to penetrate the Moroccan internal front led by those regimes. Nevertheless, all these malicious attempts failed due to the special relationship between the Moroccan people and their ruler.

This special relationship is based on the common belief that nobody is above Morocco. The uprising against French colonialism in the 1950s is a big witness of that special relationship. At the time, the colonialist authorities deposed the late King Muhammad V and the revolution lasted until the occupation and the return of the King who was received by all the people.

Morocco continued supporting Arab issues. It was the first supporter of the Algerian revolution against French colonialism. It was Morocco that formed the main base for supplying the needs of Algerian revolutionists. This support extended to the Palestinian issue and the Jerusalem Committee headed by the late King Hassan II.

These historical positions prompted an observer to look at what some neighboring countries are attempting to do to serve the devil, not for Arab solidarity and to maintain good neighborliness. Based on that, we cannot deduce what is happening in Al-Hoceima, far from the historical facts which we have pointed out because it will do injustice to the Kingdom and the monarchy, and not to recognize what the Kingdom has achieved.

Since the beginning of the recent incidents, the royal directives were clear – listen to the demands of protesters and to work towards implementing what is consistent with the Constitution and the laws, not to yield to what can be a window for realizing the dreams of strangers so chaos does not sneak in. Without a doubt, the people of Morocco know very well their national duty to overcome attempts to shake up their stability.

Morocco is the father of stability and well-being, so the risk to gamble with these national resources through obedience of the minority to outside forces is like committing suicide especially if the matter contradicts with the deep-rooted Moroccan culture, history, humanity, nature and universal norms of the rational class.

The Almighty Allah says “Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? It is We who have distributed their sustenance in this world and raised the positions of some of them above others so that they would mock each other. The mercy of your Lord is better than what they can amass.” (Quran 43:32). This divine rule is obligatory on every believer. It is general, not limited to Morocco, but the whole world.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

Morocco Trade Deficit Widens 35.8 pct In First Four Months

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 07:11

Reuters
by Samia Errazzouki

Morocco’s trade deficit widened 35.8 percent to 40.23 billion dirhams ($4.14 billion) in the first four months of 2017 compared with a year earlier, driven by increased imports, the foreign exchange regulator said on Saturday.

The trade gap was up from 29.62 billion dirhams during the same period last year, as spending on equipment imports rose 10.9 percent to 40.4 billion dirhams, and energy imports rose 47.8 percent to 22.66 billion dirhams.

Wheat imports fell 10.2 percent from a year earlier to 5.34 billion dirhams as a higher rainfall improved the harvest.

Total exports rose 3.2 percent from a year earlier to 114.9 billion dirhams, pushed by a 11.5 percent rise in phosphate exports totaling 14.2 billion dirhams.

Tourism receipts fell by 4.7 percent. Remittances from the 4.5 million Moroccans who live abroad fell 3.2 percent to 18.51 billion dirhams, while foreign direct investment rose 4.5 percent to 7.79 billion dirhams

($1 = 9.7195 Moroccan dirham)

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki)

Wind Energy Is Gaining Ground In Morocco

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 01:41

Hydrogen Fuel News
Stephen Vagus

Morocco is home to the largest onshore wind energy system in Africa and it has offset a massive amount of emissions produced over the past two years. In 2015, the Tarfaya wind farm began operation and began changing the way Morocco received its electrical power.

Previous to the wind farm providing energy, the country received 97% of its electrical power from fossil-fuels.

Now, however, Morocco intends to focus more heavily on renewable energy in order to become more environmentally friendly and fight climate change. The country is set to make wind energy a major priority.

Country aims to embrace clean power more aggressively

Morocco is home to a great deal of wind energy potential. The Moroccan Investment Development Agency suggests that the country can build some 25,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity, which will help it meet its demand for electrical power. Wind power will help bolster the country’s overall renewable energy capacity. Morocco intends to derive 52% of its electrical power from renewable sources by 2030 and the development of new wind energy projects may help the country meet this goal.

Wind farm has been specially designed for Morocco’s environment

The Tarfaya wind farm represents what can be accomplished in the country’s wind energy sector. The wind farm is comprised of 131 turbines, which have been specially designed for the Moroccan environment. Currently, this wind energy system alone accounts for 15% of the wind power goal established by the country’s government. While wind energy will be a priority for Morocco, it may not be the country’s most supported form of clean power in the coming years.

Solar energy expected to become Morocco’s favored form of power

According to a report from Stanford University, Morocco will be able to fully rely on renewable energy by 2050. Notably, the country is poised to become home to the largest solar energy projects in the world, one of which will be able to provide electricity for 1.1 million people.

Wind energy, both onshore and off, is expected to make up 29.7% of Morocco’s overall energy portfolio, with solar power accounting for the majority of the country’s energy generation capacity.

U.N. Chief To Name Ex-German President As Western Sahara Envoy

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:10

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Former German President Horst Koehler arrives for the state funeral of late German President Roman Herzog in Berlin, Germany, January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Steffie Loos/POOL/File Photo Reuters

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The head of the United Nations will name former German president Horst Koehler as his new envoy for Western Sahara, in charge of restarting talks between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement over the disputed territory.

The United Nations Security Council in April backed attempts to re-enter negotiations over Western Sahara, which has been contested since 1975 and where Morocco and Polisario fought a war until a 1991 ceasefire.

“Following the usual consultations, I intend to appoint Horst Koehler of Germany as my personal envoy for Western Sahara,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a letter to the Security Council released by the U.N. on Friday.

Tensions increased in Western Sahara last year when Moroccan forces faced off with a brigade of Polisario forces in the remote Guerguerat area near the Mauritania border. Both sides withdrew their forces this year.

Before serving as Germany’s president from 2004 to 2010, Koehler was managing director of the International Monetary Fund. He also has worked for the U.N. in development programs and on a panel for the African Development Bank.

Morocco claimed Western Sahara after former colonial power Spain left, but Polisario fought a guerrilla war for independence for the Sahrawi people there until the U.N.-backed ceasefire.

U.N. talks have failed to broker an agreement on how to decide on self-determination. Morocco wants an autonomy plan under Moroccan sovereignty. But the Polisario wants a U.N.-backed referendum that would include the question of independence.

Relations between Morocco and the U.N. hit a low last year after then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara. Morocco expelled dozens of U.N. staff working for the mission there known as MINURSO.

Guterres on Friday expressed concern over the plight of tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria who will see their food rations cut due to lack of funding, his spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters.

“Humanitarian aid, including food aid, is a lifeline for these refugees from Western Sahara,” Haq said. “The secretary-general calls on donors to urgently increase their assistance to this often overlooked and vulnerable population.”

Haq said the World Food Programme needs $7.9 million to continue providing food assistance over the next six months.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Paul Simao)

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