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Morocco’s Disappointment: French Sahara Stance in Interview

Relations between Rabat and Paris are not in good shape. From the case of alleged espionage by the Israeli software Pegasus to the vote by the European Parliament of a non-binding Resolution, ordering the Moroccan authorities to “respect freedom of expression and that of the media”, including the controversy linked to Morocco’s choice not to call on help from France in the context of the earthquake which hit the Kingdom, relations continue to become more tense.

Relations between Morocco and France have been going through a tumultuous period since Emmanuel Macron came to power. The earthquake that struck the Al-Haouz region exacerbated these tensions. Is this a simple cooling of ties between the two countries or a rupture?

– To speak of a rupture would be very exaggerated, but it is undeniable that there is a slight chill in relations between Morocco and France. It is not insignificant that the Kingdom accepted aid from four countries after the earthquake which cruelly struck it, and declined that of France. Many French people were surprised by this decision, because they are less informed about the state of the bilateral relationship that Moroccans have with the French people.

– What is the degree of influence of geopolitics in this unprecedented tense relationship between Paris and Rabat?

– There are of course personal relations between the two heads of state which could be better. The visa issue also had a strong impact on this relationship (and here too there is an underestimation of its importance by a large part of French opinion), but, in reality, the problem is above all geopolitics. Indeed, Morocco does not appreciate the efforts that Paris is making towards Algiers, believing that they are in vain. But it is above all the question of the Sahara which poses a problem. On this essential subject, the French position was previously judged positively by Rabat. This has not changed but as the United States, and also Israel, now recognize Morocco’s full sovereignty over the Sahara, the French position appears to be well behind and disappoints Morocco.

– Morocco is today a regional power that matters. Is this an aggravating factor in this complex equation?

– Morocco is, in fact, a regional power which counts and asserts itself more and more. But its rise in power cannot hinder France in any way, quite the contrary. Paris can only be pleased to see a nation with which it has so much proximity and affinity, weighing more and more on the regional and global scene.

– How do you see the future of relations between two closely linked countries? Are you optimistic?

– I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I am lucid. It must be recognized that relations have known better times, but also much deeper crises. We need each other and we need to speak frankly about areas of disagreement, but also put into perspective everything that unites us. If there is, inadvertently, a slight chill in relations between the government authorities of the two States, it is up to civil societies to take over. There are so many personal links between our two companies that we cannot allow this estrangement, which I consider temporary, to persist without saying we want to minimize it!

This article is originally published on lopinion.ma

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