Controversial Norwegian PR in occupied Western Sahara
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A representative of the Norwegian company Aqualyng is Saturday giving a presentation at a conference in occupied Western Sahara. The company is hesitating responding to questions whether they have investment plans in the country.
Published 24 April 2008


A representative from the Norwegian desalination company Aqualyng has already taken an airplane to occupied Western Sahara.

There, on April 26th, he will give a presentation for Moroccan authorities regarding desalination of seawater. The conference is hosted by the Moroccan Membrane and Desalination Society, SMMD.

Friday last week, the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara sent questions to the company, asking whether they have plans of starting up actitivies in the country. We have still not received any answer to that request. They have, on the other hand, confirmed that they have to this day not delivered any technology to the occupied country.

"I can confirm that we do not have any activities in Western Sahara, neither before nor today", Aqualyng marketing director, Christian Wee, wrote in an email to www.vest-sahara.no on Friday last week.

"Aqualyng has respect for the work you do for Western Sahara", Wee wrote about the Norwegian Support Committee.

Illegal phosphate industry
This week-end's conference is to a large extent an occasion for the government owned Moroccan phosphate company OCP to promote itself. OCP is one of the conference's main sponsors.

The phosphate company exports unprocessed phospahte rock from the occupied country in violation of international law, but to do just that, they need fresh water. The water is necessary to wash the phosphate rock before it is shipped over to waiting vessels in El Aaiun harbour. The fresh water normally comes from desalinated seawater.

The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara sees it as probable that the Moroccan phosphate company now seeks knowledge of desalination technology prior to continued and illegal investments in the industry.

During the 20 minute speech that Aqualyng's Mr. Mounir Al Gharbi, is to give, the company representative is to explain the Aqualyng's technology.

Sunday night, when the programme is finished, all participants get the possibility to travel around to look at OCPs desalination stations. Read the conference programme here (French).

"As a commercial company, we have been invited by the Moroccan water authorities to give a presentation arranged by the SMMD, and we relate to this as a commercial activity", Wee wrote.

Awaiting an answer
Aqualyng wrote to vest-sahara.no that the company today has one installation in Agadir, Morocco, that delivers water to a cement factory.

The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara knows that Aqualyng a couple of years ago contacted the NGO Norwegian Church Aid to hear how it would be to establish projects in Western Sahara. The Church Aid adviced against such involvement, since the country is occupied by Morocco, and since participation in commercial activities in the country is in violation of the interests of the local population. It is unclear whether the company at the time had received any offer of projects in the occupied territories.

Read the Norwegian foreign policy here (in Norwegian).

The Norwegian Support Committee asked the following questions to Aqualyng on Friday 18th of April, and we still await an answer:

-Taken into consideration that Morocco is illegally occupying Western Sahara, and that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises Norwegian companies against activities in the territory, does Aqualyng currently consider participating in desaliniation plants or participating with other technology in Western Sahara?
-Has Aqualyng ever intended participating in projects in Western Sahara?
-Has Aqualyng today plans of such projects? If yes, with which contractual partner, for what usage is the water, and when is the project planned implemented?
-Has Aqualyng received any offers regarding projects in Western Sahara, which you have chosen to reject?
-Has Aqualyng been in contact with the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (e.g. with the embassy in Rabat), over possible projects in Western Sahara? What has the Ministry replied?
-Has Aqualyng informed the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (e.g. with the embassy in Rabat), regarding the company's participation in El Aaiun next week? What has the Ministry replied?

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