Morocco phosphate ship held in Panama over Western Sahara challenge – officials – by Patrick Markey (Daily Mail/Reuters – May 18, 2017)

ALGIERS, May 18 (Reuters) – Panama authorities have detained a Moroccan phosphate shipment from the disputed territory of Western Sahara after the Polisario independence movement claimed the cargo had been transported illegally, Polisario and officials said on Thursday.

The detention of the vessel carrying phosphate rock cargo from Morocco’s OCP for Canada’s Agrium is the second tanker stopped this month by a Polisario legal challenge, a new tactic the independence movement has been using in its conflict with Morocco.

Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975, when Morocco claimed it as part of the kingdom and the Polisario fought a guerrilla war for the Sahrawi people’s independence. A 1991 ceasefire split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern provinces and an area controlled by Polisario.

The two sides have been locked in diplomatic battles since the U.N.-backed ceasefire over how to decide on the region’s self-determination, but repeated U.N. negotiations have failed to reach a deal.

The Danish charter vessel Ultra Innovation, carrying 55,000 tonnes of phosphate rock from Morocco’s OCP through Panama to Port of Vancouver for Agrium, was held on Wednesday night under a maritime court order, Polisario said.

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