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Morocco threatens to cut EU ties if farm deal flounders

Image of desert agriculture in Morocco [Richard Allaway/Flickr]
Image of desert agriculture in Morocco [Richard Allaway/Flickr]

Morocco's government said today it would end economic cooperation with the European Union if the bloc does not honour a farming deal, weeks after an EU court ruled that the pact does not apply to the disputed Western Sahara region.

In a statement to MAP state news agency, the agriculture ministry said the EU should resist any attempts to block Moroccan products entering the European market but did not explain why the pact might be at risk.

"In the absence of a frank commitment from the European Union, Morocco will have to make a decisive choice whether to continue with EU trade or to undo it without looking back and focus on building new trade routes," the ministry said.

Read: Morocco's return to African Union may not alter Algerian support for separatists

The European Court of Justice ruled in December that deals involving trade of agricultural products, processed agricultural products and fisheries between the EU and Morocco did not apply to Western Sahara.

The ruling was claimed as a victory by the Polisario group seeking independence for Western Sahara, which Morocco claims as its own. Last month, Polisario sought to have the EU apply the ruling to block a shipment of fish oil to a French port from the territory.

Rabat had said the European court ruling would not impact current trade deals in any way. The agriculture ministry said today that current agreements with the EU ensured thousands of jobs and could trigger migrant flows if their implementation fails.

An EU diplomatic source told Reuters the ministry's statement came in response to a remark in the European parliament by Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete referring to the "separate and distinct" status of Western Sahara.

A spokesman for the Moroccan agriculture ministry could not immediately be reached for comment and the foreign ministry referred calls to the agriculture ministry.

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