JOHANNESBURG — A South African court decision, allowing the seizure of a cargo ship with 50,000 tonnes of phosphate, could open the door to renewed challenges of Canadian imports from a disputed territory in the deserts of North Africa.
Two Canadian companies, Potash Corp. and Agrium Inc., last year accounted for nearly half of all exports of phosphate from Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco since 1975. Those shipments could face new scrutiny and more intense legal challenges as a result of the South African court decision.
The court case in South Africa is believed to be the first time a national independence movement has won a legal action to intercept the export of state property.
Morocco claims that Western Sahara is part of its territory, but many countries consider it an independent nation under Moroccan occupation. It has been one of Africa’s biggest territorial disputes for decades. Supporters of its independence have called it the last case of colonization in Africa.
By importing phosphate from Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara, the Canadian companies are giving economic support to Morocco’s occupation of the territory, according to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which is recognized by dozens of countries as the legitimate government of Western Sahara.
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