Western Sahara Worldnews
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
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.”
Natural Gas World
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)
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”.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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Sara Di Clemente
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
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36061 Bassano del Grappa (VI)
This release was published on openPR.
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’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.
Middle East Monitor
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
The Fresh Plaza
The European Commission’s European External Action Service has proposed to find a legal basis to include Western Sahara in the EU Agreement with Morocco, which for FEPEX would entail formalising the agricultural concessions to this territory.
This proposal was made on Tuesday before the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, given the EU Court of Justice’s ruling in December, which considered the Agreement with Morocco not to be applicable to the Sahara.
The representative of the European External Action Service (SEAE), Vincent Piket, mentioned the need to respect international law and comply with the ruling of the EU Court of Justice; however, he stated that “the consequence of the ruling is not the export ban on goods from Western Sahara, but the lack of a legal basis for the application of reduced tariffs to products from the Sahara.” Consequently, the European External Action Service has proposed to find a “legally sound solution, such as the inclusion in the Liberalization Agreement of a geographical coverage extension in order to include Western Sahara.”
He explained that the solution requires an urgent and close collaboration with Morocco in both political and technical fields, and in this sense, he reported that there have already been talks with Morocco, the first in mid-February and the second on 1 March. When these talks have ensured a solid technical basis, the representative of the EEAS explained that a negotiating mandate would be requested from the Council for the legal adaptation of the Agreement.
EU fruit and vegetable imports from Morocco have been showing a positive development. Between 2010 and 2015, imports grew from 856,919 tonnes to 1.04 million tonnes; a 22% growth. In the same period, the value of these shipments increased by 53%, reaching 1,263 million Euro, according to Eurostat. Spanish imports from Morocco have also grown strongly in recent years. Between 2010 and 2015 they have grown by 69%, totalling 242,173 tonnes. For FEPEX, the strong growth of fruit and vegetable imports from Morocco constitutes a major threat to the Spanish sector, given the considerable overlap in products and seasons and the expansion strategies of Moroccan horticultural crops.
Publication date: 3/3/2017
Tools & Equipment
General Electrodynamics Corporation
In a move that signals maturity for its AN60Z platform, General Electrodynamics Corporation announced the finalization of a deal with Aerotechnic in Morocco that will see Aerotechnic acquire a set of GEC’s low profile aircraft scale system.
While terms of the deal remain confidential, the move signals industry confidence in GEC’s scales which continue to break new ground in international aerospace markets. “We are seeing more and more MROs looking for long term partners in their technology procurement process. They are not looking for short term solutions. Continued after-market product support is critical in maintaining key relationships with OEMs and established end users like Aerotechnic,” said General Electrodynamics’ Chief Executive, Harold Thomas.
The Aerotechnic deal also marks a critical expansion of market share by GEC since the hiring of its new Global Director of Sales, Joseph Karoki who has set out an aggressive market share campaign. “We are looking to increase our global scale, strengthen our competitiveness, and provide our customers with expanded access to cutting-edge platform scales, technology and after-market services,” says Joseph who led the negotiations with Aerotechnic Industries.
Aerotechnic Industries S.A. provides line maintenance services on Boeing 737, 747, 757 & 767, Airbus A320 family aircrafts. The company is based in Marrakech, Morocco. Aerotechnic Industries S.A. is a joint venture between Air France-KLM and Royal Air Maroc S.A.
Excellent prospects for the agricultural season of Morocco according to the Ministry of Agriculture which announces a good level of rainfall and a correct rate of filling of the barrages.
Morocco has recently experienced significant rainfall over its entire territory. At the end of February, the average national average rainfall reached 287 mm, an increase of 7% from the normal (264 mm) and 136% higher than the previous season (122 mm) on the same date.
The reserves of dams for agricultural use amounted to nearly 7.32 billion m3 against 7.88 billion m3 on the same date of the previous campaign, ie a filling rate of 54% against 59%. The level observed at the start of the previous season was due to an earlier rainy season.
In 2003 and 2011 Morocco was targeted by terrorist attacks in Casablanca and Marrakesh – a shock to the country in the Maghreb region. “Morocco was really surprised by those attacks, especially in Casablanca,” says Mohammed Benhammou, an adviser to the Moroccan government on how to fight terrorism.
With his help, the North African country has been pouring its resources into fighting radical Islam and terrorism to make sure such attacks are not repeated.
Investigation continues into marrakesh explosion
One of those instruments is a new law that aims to crack down on terrorism and related activities. Anyone potentially preparing terrorist activities such as traveling to countries like Libya, Syria or Iraq and carrying out attacks either in those countries or in Morocco will face jail. This is where Morocco is going a different way compared to its neighbors, keeping an eye on it nationals not only at home but also abroad.
The Moroccan FBI
To be able to do that efficiently, Morocco launched its own version of the FBI, the Bureau Central d’Investigation Judiciaire (BCJI). Since it started its work in 2015, it has reportedly uncovered 40 terrorist cells and arrested almost 600 people.
The numbers are impressive but, says Benhammou, they come as no surprise. “They work really well together with other countries. That’s important, because terrorism outside Morocco can also be dangerous for us. For example, a little while ago terrorist suspects from Chad and Tangier were arrested because they were preparing attacks there. And we share all our information with European countries, because we all have the same enemy – terrorism,” he told DW.
Indeed, Morocco was one of the countries to warn Germany about the Tunisian man who was behind the attack last year at a Christmas market in Berlin. But now more than ever the BCJI has to focus on it’s own country. Ever since the “Islamic State” (IS) group began expanding in North Africa, Morocco has been facing an increasing threat. According to Adelhak Khiame, director of the BCJI, IS is specifically targeting Morocco by sending people who are not known to the intelligence services to form sleeper cells. “They even try to brainwash young girls on the internet to recruit them for an attack here,” Khiame told DW. The BCJI says it recently uncovered a cell made up of mainly minor-aged girls.
School for imams
Marokko kämpt gegen den Terrorismus (DW/W. de Koning)
Preaching moderate Islam is part of Morocco’s strategy to prevent young people feeling the lure of extremism
The bureau is just one part of Morocco’s strategy. In an attempt to nip the problem in the bud, the country is going back to school. In an effort to stop muslims from becoming extremists, the country has been educating its own imams for the past 10 years. In 2015 they took that one step further and opened an imam school where imams from all over the world can study and teach moderate Islam.
The school in Rabat currently hosts 250 Moroccans (100 of them are women) and 675 students from Mali, the Ivory Coast, France, Niger and French Guinea. Students are taught to accept different opinions and values. “People have different religions and cultures. Therefore, we need dialogue and acceptance from all sides,” the director of the school, Abdessalam Lazaar, told DW.
Marokko kämpt gegen den Terrorismus (DW/W. de Koning)
Students need to be given a perspective in life if they’re not to become susceptible to the “Islamic State” group
But becoming an imam is not a cure-all. A lot of young people who are poor see life as a jihadist as an attractive alternative. The institute therefore tries to counter those developments by offering courses in economics, history, philosophy and French. And those that do go on to preach in a mosque in Morocco are under strict vigilance, says Lazaar. “If someone exceeds the limits of the state’s religious understanding, then he must be excluded.”
Morocco remains vigilant
Vigilance is key in Morocco and people on the streets are aware that it is necessary. “Not only to stop terrorism, but also to protect the monarchy,” a young man from Rabat, who wished to stay anonymous, told DW. “A friend who worked for the police, once told me that I must not talk so much about problems in the country and just do my thing.”
A young woman from Casablanca shrugs her shoulders. “Everybody in Morocco is aware that you are being watched. If they have to do that to stop terrorists, we’re okay with that, we have nothing to hide.” The young man from Rabat agrees, but confesses that sometimes he’s a bit afraid. “I have a friend who has some weird ideas and put them on Facebook. A lot of his friends unfriended him because they – like me – don’t want to be watched because of him. I have nothing to hide – but you don’t know what they think. And here you don’t have the same rights as in other countries.”
Hundreds of Tunisians joining Islamic State
Government advisor Benhammou says Morocco’s methods are working. Aside from the arrests, fewer people from Morocco sign up with IS than from other North African or Middle East countries.
According to The Soufan Group, an international strategic consultancy firm, around 1,200 Moroccans traveled to Syria as of October 2015, while 6,000 came from Tunisia. “And bear in mind that Tunisia is four times smaller then Morocco,” said Benhammou.
A survey ship has resumed prospecting for oil in Western Sahara.
Glencore risks drawing further ire over oil exploration in Western Sahara after one of its partners resumed prospecting off the coast of the disputed territory earlier this month.
A ship chartered by private firm New Age Energy spent several weeks conducting 3D seismic scans of the sea floor in what it called “early stage” exploration for hydrocarbons.
Glencore owns 18.75pc of the Foum Ognit licence area, with Moroccan state oil company ONHYM holding 25pc, and New Age the remaining 56.25pc.
Many people in Western Sahara want self-determination.
The survey reopens a debate about the sovereignty of mineral rights in the African territory.
Western Sahara’s status is regarded as “undetermined” by the British government. A large part of the country has been occupied by Morocco since 1976, but the local Saharawi people have long campaigned for self-determination.
The UN ruled in 2002 that searching for oil in Western Sahara was not illegal, but that the exploitation of any resulting discoveries would have to respect “the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara”.
A number of pension funds have sold out of companies that explore for oil in the region, on the basis that Morocco does not have the right to bestow licences. In 2015, KLP, Norway’s largest life insurer, announced it would no longer invest in Glencore, saying its activity there ran an “unacceptable risk of violating fundamental ethical norms” and was unlikely to be consistent with international law.
Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg Credit: Reuters
Resource companies have argued that helping to develop an industry in Western Sahara is the best way to create jobs and boost its economy, which had an estimated GDP of just $908.9m in 2007.
In addition to its mining operations, FTSE 100 giant Glencore is one of the world’s biggest traders of oil. It acquired parts of two blocks off the coast of Western Sahara to explore for oil in 2014, but has so far not progressed its work. Since an industry downturn two years ago, it has been looking to prune parts of its portfolio.
An industry source said that Glencore was in advanced talks to transfer ownership of its stake in Foum Ognit to New Age, as it was unclear if the block would ever produce oil.
Glencore declined to comment.
The standoff in Guerguerat began last year when U.N. troops stepped in after Moroccan gendarmerie crossed beyond Moroccan-controlled areas in what they said was a road clearing operation, prompting the mobilization of Polisario forces.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, that King Mohammed had ordered “a unilateral withdrawal from the zone” in conformation with the U.N. Secretary General’s recommendations.
Polisario forces were not immediately available for a response.
The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General had released a statement on Saturday calling on all parties to “unconditionally withdraw all armed elements from the Buffer Strip as soon as possible”.
Polisario accused Rabat of breaking the terms of the ceasefire last year by trying to build a road in the U.N. buffer zone. Morocco says it was just a clearing operation that broke no terms of the ceasefire.
U.N. peacekeepers had been stationed between Moroccan forces and a brigade of Polisario troops who were just 200 metres apart in an area between a Moroccan-built earth wall marking Moroccan controlled territory and the Mauritania frontier.