RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Dallas-based Kosmos Energy said Monday its exploration well off the coast of the disputed Western Sahara territory has not yielded a commercial find and will be plugged, though the search would continue.
The discovery postpones the thorny question of what would happen if commercially viable oil-resources were discovered off the coast of one of the longest running international territorial disputes in Africa.
The statement said the 22,000 square kilometer (8,500 square mile) Cap Boujdour block still had "substantial exploration potential" and a second well would be drilled after further analysis of the data gathered.
Morocco annexed the largely desert territory of the Western Sahara in 1975 and fought a 15-year-old war with the Polisario independence movement until a U.N.-brokered ceasefire.
A planned U.N.-sponsored referendum on the issue has never taken place and Morocco has instead proposed autonomy for the territory.
A 2002 U.N. letter responding to questions of the legality of Morocco signing exploration agreements for the territory concluded that the exploitation of resources "in disregard of the interest and wishes of the people of Western Sahara" would be illegal.
Pro-Independence activists have condemned the oil exploration agreements as well as the ongoing exploitation of the area's extensive fishing and phosphate resources. They fear the discovery of oil would only solidify Moroccan control.
Morocco imports nearly all its energy needs and has conducted aggressive efforts to discover oil resources of its own.
For its part, Kosmos has said that if commercially viable deposits were found, they would be exploited according to international standards and "for the benefit of the people of the territory."
Kosmos energy signed exploration agreements for the Cap Boujdour block in 2006.