IKEA sign.
Photo: TT

Morocco blocks opening of IKEA store

Moroccan authorities have blocked the opening of IKEA's first store in the country because it lacked a "conformity permit," the news agency Reuters reports.

The plan had been to open the store on Tuesday, but in a statement on Monday, the Interior Ministry noted the permit problems without elaborating. It is unclear if the block is temporary or if permits will be granted for the store in the future.

Reuters quotes a news website "close to the Moroccan palace" which earlier on Monday said the store was blocked because of Sweden's plans to recognise a republic sought by the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara.

This information is however rejected by the Swedish Foreign Office.
"It is not correct that IKEA has been blocked because of this. According to the information we have, there are question marks regarding the permit with some local authorities. It is not about Western Sahara," said Veronica Nordlund, press spokesperson at the Swedish Foreign Office.

The 26,000 square-metre store is based in Morocco's largest shopping mall near the city of Mohamedia. It is the first of five stores planned in Morocco. IKEA's Moroccan subsidiary told local media that the opening of the store was cancelled, Reuters reports.

Morocco has controlled most of Western Sahara since 1975. However, the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks independence, as a new state called the Sahrawi Republic.

Sweden and other Scandinavian countries have been supporters of Western Saharan self-determination, while France and Spain have been accused by activists and human rights organisations of supporting the Moroccan side. In 2012, the Swedish parliament voted to recognise Western Sahara, but the then centre-right rejected it with reference to the need for controlling a territory before any recognition.

After winning the election last year, Sweden's centre-left coalition recognised Palestine, indicating a shift in the previous policy. But in March this year, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told reporters that formally supporting an independent Western Sahara was not currently on the table, and that the situation there is different from in Palestine.

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