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Sweden softens line on Western Sahara recognition in face of boycott threat

Published fredag 2 oktober 2015 kl 09.05
"What is morally right?"
(3:24 min)
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Photo: Christine Olsson / TT
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Photo: Christine Olsson / TT

Morocco's government has threatened to boycott Swedish companies and exports if Sweden implements a 2012 parliamentary motion to recognize Western Sahara.

Sweden's parliament decided in 2012 that the country would recognize the disputed territory under Moroccan control, but Foreign Minister Margot Wallström tells Swedish Radio News that the matter is currently not on the government's agenda and that they are awaiting the results of a policy review.

"The government doesn't want to anticipate this analysis, and therefore the recognition matter is not on the table. We will ask for this report and then we'll discuss what to do," Wallström says.

The Moroccan government said in a statement published by local media that it was necessary to take a stand against Sweden, not only for its plans to recognize Western Sahara but also because the Nordic nation was trying to boycott Moroccan exports and influence other EU countries to do so too.

"Our message is clear. If Sweden doesn't review its policy, we'll start boycotting all Swedish companies and products," a government spokesperson said at a press conference.

Last Monday, Morocco stopped the inauguration of an Ikea store in the country. Following the incident, the North African country sent a diplomatic delegation to Sweden, which they described as a last chance to keep the good relations between both countries.

Lena Thunberg, editor of Västsahara, a magazine published in Sweden dedicated to the Western Saharah issue and which is sympathetic to the Western Sahara cause, guessed that Sweden is getting pressure from other governments to tone down its support of the region.

"I suppose the Swedish government must be [being pressured] by other European countries and Morocco, of course, because what the [foreign] minister has said for about six months is that the government is doing an analysis of the whole issue, and they are waiting for a report, and when that report is [delivered] they will probably make a decision," Thunberg says.

"I think it's extremely sad, and extremely surprising," she adds. "There is a decision in the Parliament where the Social Democratic party was very active in pushing for recognition of Western Sahara, so why are they not fulfilling it now?"

Thunberg went on to downplay fears over political and economic fallout from any decision to recognize Western Sahara.

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