EU Court says Western Sahara cannot apply to EU-Morocco deal

The European Union's high court says that EU agreements on closer ties and trade with Morocco should not apply to the disputed Western Sahara region.

The EU's Court of Justice said Wednesday that any EU deal with Morocco should have specifically referred to the region and that the people there should have consented to being part of such an agreement.

The territory's status is among the most sensitive topics in the North African kingdom. Morocco considers the vast mineral-rich Western Sahara as its "southern provinces" and fiercely defends against anything it considers a threat to its territorial integrity.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front independence movement. The U.N. brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor it.