In first visit to Morocco, Pompeo discusses Iran threat, security cooperation

Washington considers Morocco an important ally in the battle against terrorism.
Sunday 08/12/2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, December 5. (AFP)
First visit. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, December 5. (AFP)

RABAT - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with top Moroccan officials to discuss regional issues and economic and counterterrorism cooperation during his first trip to the North African country.

Pompeo is the highest-ranking US official to travel to Morocco since the election of US President Donald Trump in 2016.

Pompeo met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on December 5 to talk about the “threat” posed by Iran’s attempts to “broaden its regional influence” as well as the conflict in Libya and unrest across the Sahel region, Bourita said in a statement.

Pompeo hailed the partnership between Washington and Rabat.

“A pleasure meeting Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita again today to reaffirm the importance of our enduring partnership, which is expanding economic opportunity and increasing security for both our countries,” Pompeo posted on Twitter.

Bourita said the meetings with Pompeo were an opportunity to examine ways to strengthening cooperation between the two countries regarding regional stability, particularly in the fight against terrorist groups and jihadist organisations.

Washington considers Morocco an important ally in the battle against terrorism and designated it as a major non-NATO ally in 2004.

Bourita said the two diplomats discussed mechanisms to enable Libya to achieve lasting peace and security as part of a political solution between the Libyan parties as reached in the Skhirat Agreement.

In 2017, Libyan National Army Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar announced the end of the Libyan Political Agreement, signed in Skhirat, Morocco, in 2015, saying he did not recognise decisions issued by the political bodies linked to it.

Bourita and Pompeo spoke of the threat posed by Iran and its allies and efforts to counter Tehran’s attempts to broaden its influence in North and West Africa.

Morocco cut ties with Iran in May 2018 after accusing it of using its Lebanese militia ally Hezbollah to deliver weapons to the Polisario Front.

Bourita and Pompeo affirmed the common vision shared by Morocco and the United States concerning the Sahel, a strategic region requiring joint coordination at several levels.

“Morocco considers that unilateral approaches have proved ineffective and calls for a global and collective approach based on coordination between the countries of the Arab Maghreb Union, the Sahel countries (CEN-SAD) and West Africa (ECOWAS),” said the statement.

Pompeo’s itinerary initially included a meeting with Moroccan King Mohammed VI but that changed when Pompeo’s stay in Lisbon was extended to include a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Pompeo met with Morocco’s police and domestic intelligence chief Abdellatif Hammouchi in Temara to discuss counterterrorism efforts. The meeting was useful “to reaffirm the importance of our counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation. We value our partnership with Morocco in the fight against terrorism and working together to advance peace and security,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

Morocco and the United States have regular joint military exercises as part of the security cooperation between the two nations.

In November, US Army Africa Commanding General Major-General Roger Cloutier met with Moroccan Commander of the Southern Zone Major General Belkheir El Farouk in Agadir regarding preparations for the Moroccan-American military exercise “African Lion,” set for next March and April.

The State Department recently approved the sale of 36 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters for $4.25 billion to Morocco, which it called an “essential partner” in Washington’s broader diplomatic strategy.