Morocco considers boycott of Swedish companies over Western Sahara

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2015 4:22 PM

By Aziz El Yaakoubi

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco said on Thursday it was considering a boycott of Swedish companies operating in the North African kingdom because of Sweden's position on the conflict over Western Sahara.

The territory has been disputed since a war two decades ago. The government said Sweden has been campaigning to boycott products from Western Sahara and international companies with a presence there.

"We are heading towards a boycott of Swedish companies according the principle of reciprocity after similar campaigns to boycott Moroccan companies," the statement issued after the weekly cabinet meeting said.

Morocco has controlled most of Western Sahara since 1975 and claims the sparsely populated stretch of desert, which has offshore fishing, phosphate reserves and oilfield potential, as its own.

However, the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks independence, and a United Nations mission was formed more than 20 years ago anticipating a referendum, which has never taken place, on Western Sahara's political future.

Sweden and other Scandinavian countries have backed Western Saharan self-determination, while France and Spain have been accused by activists and human rights organizations of supporting the Moroccan line.

Sweden has not recognized Western Sahara as a state. It says it supports the U.N.'s work in finding a solution to the conflict, but is conducting an internal review of its policy because of domestic interest in the matter.

The Moroccan government did not give details on how the boycott would be implemented or say whether it knew which Swedish companies could be affected.

"We are considering it, but we hope Sweden would review its position on the Moroccan Sahara," Mustapha Khalfi, communication minister and government spokesman, told Reuters. "That's all I can tell you right now."

However, Moroccan authorities have already blocked the opening of IKEA's [IKEA.UL] first store this week, citing a lack of permits.

Swedish-labeled companies have been operating in Morocco for decades, including Geely-owned carmaker Volvo Car Group, H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB and Volkswagen-owned Scania.

(Additional reporting by Zakia Abdennebi; editing by Patrick Markey/Ruth Pitchford)