Moroccan-Saudi relations regain momentum

Morocco, according to observers, remains very wary of Iran’s ambitions in North Africa due to Tehran’s support for the agendas of the separatist Polisario Front.
Thursday 29/04/2021
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud hold a joint press conference in Rabat, July 29, 2020. (DPA)
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud hold a joint press conference in Rabat, July 29, 2020. (DPA)

RABAT – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita has held video talks with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan to discuss boosting bilateral relations, the Moroccan news agency (MAP) reported on Tuesday.

According to observers, the recent Saudi-Moroccan contacts signal a move to forge warmer relations between Rabat and Riyadh after a period of stagnation.

According to MAP’s report, the Saudi and Moroccan ministers hailed “the strong relations of partnership and cooperation” in political, economic and cultural sectors between the two nations.

After reviewing the status of bilateral cooperation and ways to strengthen it, the two ministers agreed to invite the relevant departments of the two countries to hold joint meetings to prepare the next session of a joint Commission.

The discussions also focused on a number of Arab and regional causes of common interest, the statement said, adding that the two ministers affirmed the adherence of their countries to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and the promotion of peaceful solutions to Arab causes, while ending foreign interference in the affairs of Arab States.

Bourita reiterated the absolute solidarity of Morocco and its continued support to the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to defend its stability, territorial integrity and the security of its citizens and residents, as well as its initiative to resolve the crisis in Yemen.

“Morocco stands by the Saudi initiative to settle the catastrophe in Yemen,” Bourita said.

On his part, the Saudi minister reiterated “the constant and principled position” of his country vis-à-vis the territorial integrity of Morocco, Riyadh’s continued support for the Moroccanness of the Western Sahara and its belief that “any solution to this artificial regional conflict can only occur within the framework of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Morocco.”

The status of Western Sahara, which the United Nations classifies as a “non-self-governing territory”, has for decades pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front.

Morocco claims the entire territory and controls 80 percent, with a huge sand berm and UN peacekeepers separating a Polisario-held enclave in the east. The peacekeepers are mandated to organise a long-stalled referendum on self-determination.

In December last year, Washington recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, in exchange for Rabat normalising ties with Israel.

Later, the US move accelerated the opening of consulates by Arab and African countries in the territory, giving Morocco the upper hand in the thorny file.

Bin Farhan’s most recent statements, observers said, reflect Morocco’s ongoing diplomatic gains when it comes to Western Sahara file, as Rabat continues to mobilise the support of African, Arab and international capitals to support its sovereignty over the disputed territory.

The two ministers also focused on a number of Arab and regional causes of common interest, MAP reported.

Regarding the Palestinian cause, the two ministers expressed their “constant solidarity with the Palestinian people in defending their just cause and their legitimate rights and emphasised the need not to undermine the multi-religious character of the city of Al-Quds and to preserve its legal status.”

They also stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to overcome the state of stagnation in the peace process and to relaunch a new momentum to resume negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides on the basis of the two-state solution agreed by the international community.

In this regard, the Saudi minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed the efforts made by King Mohammed VI, chairman of the Al-Quds Committee, to defend the Holy City of Al-Quds and support its people, and the Bayt Mal Al-Quds Agency.

The talks between Bin Farhan and Bourita, which came after a period that was marked by cold relations between Rabat and Riyadh, highlights the depth and durability of the traditional alliance between Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Morocco was one of the first countries to support Saudi Arabia in confronting the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen and it sent F-16 fighter jets that actively participated in the military operations to push back the group.

Observers believe that there are many factors that have preserved the strong relations between Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Morocco, they say, remains very wary of Iran’s ambitions in North Africa due to Tehran’s support for the agendas of the separatist Polisario Front.

Morocco’s position, in this regard, resonates with Saudi Arabia, which had earlier welcomed and supported Rabat’s severing of its diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2018.

Morocco is viewed by Saudis as a reliable economic partner, despite differences on some issues at times, observers said.

They argued the Moroccan-Saudi relations have regained their natural momentum following the progress of the Gulf reconciliation process that was announced on January 5 in the final statement of the Al-Ula Summit that took place in Saudi Arabia.