Ikea Battle Ensues in Morocco Over Disputed Western Sahara Territory

Updated | Moroccan authorities have sent Swedish furniture company Ikea packing by blocking the planned opening of its first store in the North African country.

According to Reuters, a statement from the Moroccan Interior Ministry said Ikea did not have a "conformity permit" for the store, which was already built and had all the components in place for its opening today.

However, local media say authorities blocked the store opening as a reprisal for Sweden's alleged plan to officially recognise the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Moroccan news website Le360, a source close to the Moroccan palace, according to Reuters, reports that the decision was made following a meeting that included the leaders of eight national parties from the majority and the opposition.

Western Sahara, is a disputed region located to the south of Morocco that both the Moroccan government and the breakaway Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) lay claim to. Morocco controls the western coastal region while the SADR hold the east. In 1991, the U.N. brokered a ceasefire between Morocco and the SADR following a 15-year civil war. The SADR want Western Sahara recognized as an independent state. In July the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2218 calling for a political solution to the disputed area.

Sweden does not recognise Western Sahara as a state. However, a government spokesperson tells Newsweek: "The Swedish Government is currently analysing Sweden's policy on Western Sahara, in light of the interest in this issue in Swedish society."

Ikea was due to open the 26,000-square-metre (270,000-sq-ft) ) store in the city of Mohammedia, just north of Casablanca, Morocco's largest city. In July Morocco World News reported that Ikea plans to open five stores across the North African country.

There are currently 375 IKEA stores in 47 countries. Ikea spokesperson Kaisa Lyckdal said: "The Ikea store in Casablanca was not ready for opening today, that is why it has not opened. Ikea Morocco is now working to get the store ready for opening."

The article was updated to include a comment from Ikea.