Moroccan king calls for ‘direct and frank’ talks with Algeria

Political analyst Hafid Ezzahri said the king’s speech was not the first time that Morocco reached out to Algeria to settle differences between the two countries.
Sunday 11/11/2018
Dialogue offer. Moroccan King Mohammed VI speaks during the 43rd anniversary of the Green March, on November 6. (MAP)
Dialogue offer. Moroccan King Mohammed VI speaks during the 43rd anniversary of the Green March, on November 6. (MAP)

CASABLANCA - Moroccan King Mohammed VI has called for “direct and frank” talks with Algiers to settle differences that hampered ties between the neighbouring countries.

“I should like to say today, in a very straightforward and responsible way, that Morocco stands ready for a direct and frank dialogue with our sister nation, Algeria, to settle the transient and objective differences impeding the development of relations between the two countries,” King Mohammed VI said November 6 in a speech commemorating the 43rd anniversary of the Green March.

The Green March was coordinated by the Moroccan government to force Spain to hand over Western Sahara to Morocco. An estimated 350,000 Moroccans participated, marching several kilometres into Western Sahara territory

Political analyst Hafid Ezzahri said the king’s speech was not the first time that Morocco reached out to Algeria to settle differences between the two countries.

“This time the call came for direct dialogue without any mediator in the midst of new regional and international developments, most important the UN Security Council Resolution 2440, which called on Algeria to be involved in the negotiations to settle the Western Sahara dispute, the continuous threat of terrorism in the Maghreb and human trafficking,” said Ezzahri.

The UN Security Council in October adopted a US-drafted resolution that extended the decades-old UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara until April 30 to help relaunch political negotiations on a settlement in Western Sahara.

Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front have accepted a UN invitation to talks December 5-6 in Geneva that could lead to formal negotiations on ending the conflict.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and maintains it is an integral part of its country. The Algeria-backed Polisario Front began an armed conflict with Morocco for an independent state that lasted until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

Rabat has proposed a form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the territory. The proposal was rejected by the Polisario Front, which insists on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination in a UN-monitored vote.

Nabila Benyahia, professor of political science and international relations at the University of Algiers 3, told Annahar TV that Morocco was seeking a serious dialogue with Algeria following King Mohammed VI’s speech.

“I find it a strategic speech that seeks to reopen solid relations between the two nations. It is a positive sign to open cooperation ties,” Benyahia said, warning that the West was the only party benefitting from the political stalemate.

Benyahia said the two countries need to learn from European counterparts, which overcame differences and established the European Union.

King Mohammed VI emphasised the historic ties between Morocco and Algeria, especially during the colonial rule. He suggested setting up a joint political mechanism for dialogue and consultation between Morocco and Algeria.

“I should like to stress that Morocco is willing to consider the proposals or initiatives Algeria may want to offer in this regard so as to break the stalemate in the relations between the two neighbours and sister nations,” said King Mohammed VI.

Ezzahri said Moroccans hoped that Algeria would deal with the message in a positive way. If Algiers ignores it, there will be a loss of development opportunities between the two countries, he said.

King Mohammed VI said the proposed mechanism would analyse all issues in good faith and in a frank, objective and honest way, using an open-ended agenda, without conditions or exceptions.

“It will also contribute to enhancing bilateral coordination and consultation and help us rise to regional and international challenges, particularly in terms of fighting terrorism and addressing the issue of migration,” he said.

Abdelaziz Karaki, professor of political science at Mohammed V University in Rabat, told Medi1 TV that the two countries face several challenges that could be more easily overcome if there was unity.

“Terrorism and human trafficking are some of the thorniest issues that have to be dealt with in both countries. The current political crisis does not benefit the two nations at all levels,” said Karaki.

King Mohammed VI reiterated Morocco’s unchanged position on the disputed territory. Last year, he insisted that Morocco ruled out any solution to the disputed territory other than within the framework of “Morocco’s full sovereignty over its Sahara and the Autonomy Initiative, which has been declared serious and credible by the international community.”

He denied that Morocco’s return to the African Union had anything to do with the Western Sahara issue. He insisted that it was dictated by the pride “we take in belonging to Africa, as well as by our commitment to share in the development dynamic it is witnessing and to contribute to tackling the various challenges facing the continent, without compromising our legitimate rights and best interests.”

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