Morocco agrees fisheries pact with EU

RABAT, July 24 Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:50pm EDT

RABAT, July 24 (Reuters) - Morocco has agreed a new four-year fisheries agreement with European Commission that will allow 126 European ships to fish in the waters off Morocco and Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by the North African kingdom in 1975.

The agreement guarantees Morocco 40 million euros each year, compared with 36 million under a previous deal that was rejected by the European Parliament in 2011 because of questions over whether the money would benefit the population of Western Sahara.

This agreement could also be rejected by the European Parliament. The sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara is not recognised by the international community and some deputies consider the pact to be against international law.

"I can't predict if the European Parliament would approve this agreement or not, but this one respects the international law and stipulates that Morocco respects the international law and human rights," Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki told reporters on Wednesday.

Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara prompted a rebellion by the opposition Polisario Front. The United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991, but talks have failed to find a settlement in Africa's longest-running territorial dispute.

Morocco's parliament also has to approve the agreement but it is likely to be a formality as the cash-strapped country is seeking more resources to overcome an economic slowdown.

Under the deal, some 14 million euros would go towards developing the fisheries sector, a Commission statement said. (Reporting by Zakia Abdennebi, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi)

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