FT/ How did Morocco resolve its diplomatic crises?

The first months of 2022 were marked by the resolution of two major diplomatic crises, with Germany and Spain. Morocco succeeded in making two countries that had ambiguous positions on the Sahara understand the full importance of this issue.

On the occasion of the Fête du Trône, MoroccoLatestNews FR looks back on the great moments of Moroccan diplomacy with Mustapha Sehimi, professor of law and political scientist.

Moroccan diplomacy, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, in application of the high instructions of King Mohammed VI, as well as his personal follow-up, has made it possible to achieve great progress in the space of a few months. Changes which, a few years ago, seemed unachievable for many observers.

Spain, the former colonial power in the Sahara, supported Morocco in the file of this artificial conflict, Germany also, and a few months after the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, the Allenby bridge which allows the Palestinians to have a window on the world, was permanently opened thanks to the sponsorship of King Mohammed VI.

Madrid’s change of course on the subject of the Sahara calls out because it is an unexpected turn of events which “shocked” both Spain and Algeria. In Germany too, this support comes from a country that had shown reservations. How did Morocco get these two positions?

For this first half of 2022, and on the eve of the Throne Day, how does the national question of the Moroccan Sahara now look? There is no doubt that it has once again been consolidated: a process of consolidating the Moroccan position which can only continue. You refer in particular to two European countries, Spain and Germany. A separate approach must be made for them. With Madrid, it should be remembered that the crisis occurred in April 2021 when the Spanish authorities welcomed the leader of the separatist movement, Brahim Ghali, for “health” reasons…

Morocco reacted firmly: Recall of the ambassador in Madrid, measures to suspend judicial and security cooperation but maintenance of trade and economic relations. The tension persisted for months. It was only overcome after acts from Madrid to normalize bilateral relations and establish them on new bases of transparency, respect and trust.

With Germany, it is also the national question that has been at the heart of the tension. This became singularly polarized in the aftermath of the recognition by the American Trump administration of Moroccan sovereignty over its recovered Saharan provinces. In the days that followed, Angela Merkel, then Chancellor – and whose country was a non-permanent member of the Security Council – had requested an emergency meeting of this high UN authority. In what way is Berlin primarily concerned by this question? What justifies such an “urgent” request? Here again, Morocco reacted vigorously. The tension lasted throughout 2021.

The German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, had to send a message of greetings to the Sovereign on January 3. Rabat had decided to “suspend all contact” and all “interaction or cooperation action (…) both with the German Embassy in Morocco and with the cooperation organizations and German political foundations linked to it”. A decision which is due to “deep misunderstandings”, a negative attitude on the question of the Moroccan Sahara, an “antagonic activism” in the matter, a “continuous relentlessness” to “combat the 1st regional role of Morocco, in particular on the Libyan file” , etc.

The King has been invited for a state visit to Germany. And relations were able to normalize after the German president insisted on reaffirming – after a statement by the German Foreign Ministry, that “Morocco has made an important contribution to resolving the Sahara issue and this” through a plan autonomy in the Sahara in 2007″. Rabat expected “acts”, which was done.

What could have convinced Germany, a country so cold on the subject, and Spain, the former colonial power whose interest was to maintain its double game?

Morocco does not only want to convince Madrid and Berlin. He wants more: A substantial apprehension of the terms of reference of the artificial confit of the Sahara, taking into account the resolutions of the Security Council on the pre-eminence of the Moroccan autonomy project continuously validated by this high UN body, membership and support for a realistic, serious and credible compromise negotiation process.

The Kingdom is aware that in Spain, as a result of its historical responsibility as an occupying power, differences and various sensitivities may still persist. But he believes that there are higher interests that must prevail. This was eventually recognized by the Head of Government, who declared before the Congress of Deputies that his country was defending the interests of States and that this was a “State affair”. A message also addressed to Algeria which opened a crisis with Madrid on this subject. Should we speak of “double play” of Spain before? rather, it is necessary to refer to an ambiguity which has now been overcome.

The way in which the change of position of Spain and Germany was announced is also interesting to analyze. There were passages from Sanchez’s letter announced by the royal cabinet, then the visit for an iftar with King Mohammed VI…

The conditions for recovery and normalization with Madrid and Berlin are interesting to note. The visit of the Spanish Chief Executive on April 7 was marked by the meeting he had with the King. The Sovereign then offered him an “iftar”, a particular mark… Pedro Sanchez on this occasion, insisted on “reaffirming Spain’s position on the Sahara issue, considering the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the more serious, realistic and credible for the resolution of the dispute”, according to the very terms of the press release from the royal cabinet.

The issues of common interest between the two countries are important: illegal immigration, reopening of borders and maritime links, fight against smuggling, trade and investment (Spain is Morocco’s leading trading partner), energy cooperation, delimitation of territorial waters, …

As for Berlin’s new position, successive signs in the direction of abasement have been given by German diplomacy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs specified that the report produced by a think tank German, Stifun Wissenschaft und Politik, (German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP) did not reflect the official position of his country. Except to specify that this report was in the country file of this same department.

This report recommended that the European Union limit “Morocco’s hegemonic ambitions” in Africa by helping Algeria and Tunisia more. This document also noted that “Morocco has enormously expanded its presence in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade, especially economically…”. This had led King Mohammed VI to react in his Speech from the Throne of July 30, 2021 in these terms: “Some countries, in particular European countries which paradoxically count among Morocco’s traditional partners, fear for their economic interests, their markets and their spheres of influence in the Maghreb region”.

As if to turn the page on the crisis, the new German cabinet, led by the socialist Olaf Scholtz, praises Morocco’s role in the region, praising among other things “its diplomatic commitment in favor of the Libyan price process”.

With Israel, bilateral relations are strengthening and are fully assumed on the Moroccan side. The links are fluid and even look natural. Moreover, in the space of a few months, Morocco played a central role in the opening of the Allenby bridge, which no other Arab country has done. What does this demonstrate?

With the re-establishment of relations with Israel, Morocco is once again deploying its diplomatic action in an optimal manner. Africa, Asia, Latin America, so many regional and even continental spaces where the Kingdom pursues a particular, influential, credible and even radiant foreign policy.

With Israel, the factors of rapprochement are known: a Moroccan community of more than 800,000 Jews, a constant policy of dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, the preservation of the status of Al Quds Acharrif whose Committee is chaired by the King Mohammed VI, the enormous potential for economic and military cooperation and in other areas. Must we remember that the Palestinian cause is dear to the hearts of all Moroccans in the same way as that of the Sahara?

The Sovereign reiterated, on the very day of the signing of the Abraham Accords, his total support for the Palestinian cause by telephoning the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Morocco is well placed to assert the legitimate rights of Palestinians and to advance a two-state solution.

It is this Moroccan policy that is bearing fruit with the very recent opening of the Allenby-King Hussein border post, which is the only connection for Palestinians between the West Bank and Jordan. The mediation was led by the King of Morocco… What does this show? That Moroccan diplomacy is efficient, mobilized and decisive, as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, with so many postures and gesticulations…

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