Last Wednesday, Ireland’s Senate approved a bill prohibiting the purchase and import of products or services coming from occupied territories, including Israeli settlements. As for Western Sahara, there is no clear international legal consensus on its occupation by Morocco, according to the bill.
Named “The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018,” the legislation prohibits economic activities with “illegal settlements in territories deemed occupied under international law.”
“Whether or not certain territories are occupied for the purposes of international law is often contested. Differing views exist between states as to whether, for example, Morocco occupies Western Sahara. If enacted, it will apply by default only to territories where there is clear international legal consensus on the status of the occupation,” reads the bill.
The Civil Engagement Group, the upper house of the Irish Parliament, hopes that the implementation of the proposed law could possibly “be extended to territories when a similar case for occupation can be made, such as Western Sahara, where the suffering of the Sahrawi people is longstanding and well-reported.”
The Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights are the only territories which have been confirmed as occupied under international law. “Ireland and its EU Partners have a clear position on Israeli settlements. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights are territories which have been occupied by Israel since 1967. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace, and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible,” the bill said.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, opposed this bill, saying that trade is within the EU’s ability. He also called the move “irresponsible and opportunist.”
The drafted law proposes punishing anyone who imports or assists in the importation or sale of goods or services to Israeli settlements within the occupied Palestinian territory. The bill also punishes all those who “engage or attempt to engage in the extraction of resources from a relevant occupied territory or its associated territorial waters.”
Morocco denies inclusion of Western in the draft bill
Some Moroccan outlets such as Hespress and Lakome reported that the bill also prohibits imports from Russia-annexed Crime, the north-west of Cyprus, and the Western Sahara.
In a statement to Moroccan news outlet Le Site Info, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that Western Sahara is connected to the Irish bill. “By reading the bill of the Irish Senate, it never mentioned the southern provinces of Morocco or the Moroccan Sahara as areas where import and export is prohibited, not even among the Irish Senate debate,” official from Moroccan Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying.
“According to the same the draft law, the prohibition is only limited to the import and sale of goods and services coming from the occupied Palestinian territories, in addition to some other areas which do not comprise the Kingdom of Morocco and its southern provinces at all,” the official added.
The ministry considered the news claiming the Irish bill prohibits import of products from Western Sahara as “false.” It accused the Polisario Front of spreading the news, noting that “their attempts failed.”
“The media of separatists is responsible for publishing this false news. During their visit to Ireland last January, some separatists tried to campaign for the inclusion of the southern provinces in this bill,” the same official said.