Morocco, Russia bolster strategic ties

Friday 25/03/2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Moroccan King Mohammed VI arrive for a signing ceremony following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 15th.

Casablanca - Morocco is looking to gain economic and security benefits from its king’s recent visit to Moscow.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI travelled to Russia in mid-March, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials. He also was present as a series of agreements related to economic is­sues, such as tourism and exports, was signed.
Morocco and Russia also entered into a strategic partnership to sup­port regional and international stability. The agreement includes protection of classified information and the fight against terrorism. Ra­bat has developed a strong reputa­tion for counterterrorism-related intelligence operations, which have thwarted attacks in North Africa and elsewhere.
The countries agreed to increase air travel, as Morocco looks to entice Russian tourists to North Africa. An additional four charter flights, including from St Petersburg to Agadir, are to be added to existing Royal Air Maroc routes.
Morocco has said it wants to have as many as 200,000 Russian tour­ists visit the country yearly by 2018. About 45,000 Russians travel to Mo­rocco each year now. Contracts were signed with Russian tour operators to enhance Morocco’s reputation as a vacation destination.
Television channel Russia 24 re­cently aired a documentary that invited Russians to visit Morocco, which it called “a stable and toler­ant Muslim country” with great tourist attractions.
Other agreements included coop­eration in environmental protection and natural resources, fisheries and promotion and protection of mu­tual investments. A string of memo­randa of understanding was signed in energy, mineral resources, veteri­nary and Islamic affairs.
During the king’s Russian visit, the General Confederation of Mo­roccan Enterprises (CGEM) organ­ised a Morocco-Russia forum to strengthen bilateral relations. Offi­cials of the two countries launched an economic council, which, along with the Morocco-Russia Business Council, is to help economic mo­mentum continue.
Morocco’s trade deficit with Rus­sia peaked at more than $16.5 mil­lion in 2014 with total trade about $18.5 million. Moroccan exports to the Russian market are dominated by fruit, vegetables and fishery products. Maroc Export Director- General Zahra Maafiri signed agree­ments with a number of Russian food distributors. Among the more than 200 Moroccan products that were referenced were grapes, cit­rus, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, fresh fish from wild fisheries, oys­ters and other seafood.
Morocco is the top supplier of citrus to the Russian market. More Moroccan products, such as juices and oils, have become available on Russian supermarket shelves in re­cent years.
Opportunities in the fisheries sector include expanded exports of products such as frozen pelagic fish. Morocco is the largest exporter of frozen sardines and sardinellas to Russia and is the sixth-biggest exporter of mackerel. Diplomatic ties between Moscow and Rabat were established in 1958. The two countries enjoy strong relations, which are highlighted by mutual visits of the countries’ leadership, including Putin’s visit to Morocco in 2006.