Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Moroccan News Briefs #137

Morocco Does the Right Thing By Qatar

According to the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, King Mohammed VI has ordered that food be sent to Qatar. Morocco joins Turkey, Oman and Iran in assisting Qatar avoid the Saudi led blockade.

Morocco's decision is “in line with the teachings of our religion especially during the month of Ramadan where requites solidarity between Muslim people,” explained the communiqué. The King’s order to send goods to Qatar followed Morocco’s offer on Sunday to mediate between Qatar and other Gulf countries, which severed ties with Doha last week.

The Ministry stressed that the decision to send food “had nothing to do with the political aspects of the current crisis between Qatar and other sister states,” noting that Morocco’s position vis-à-vis the issue had been fully detailed in a communiqué on Sunday.

Morocco joins Turkey, Oman and Iran in assisting Qatar

Sunday’s communiqué stated that because there are “strong personal ties of sincere fraternity and mutual consideration between King Mohammed VI […] and His brother Kings and Emirs of the Gulf countries, the Kingdom of Morocco has been careful not to pay into public statements and hasty statements which only reinforce discord and deepen differences.”

It added that the Kingdom of Morocco is “ready to offer its good offices with a view to promote a frank and comprehensive dialogue on the basis of no-interference in internal affairs and the fight against religious extremism.”

Morocco’s commitment to end the crisis between the Gulf crisis highlights the strong ties between the Kingdom of Morocco and the countries of the region. Relations between Morocco and Qatar have witnessed a steady improvement in recent years. This improvement was reflected in the number of investments Qatar has launched in Morocco.

The latest investment was announced last February when the Qatari government announced its decision to invest $150 million in building a dam project in the province of Guelmim in southern Morocco. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

As recently as March 26, 2017, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, welcomed the then Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salaheddine Mezouar, who delivered to him a verbal message from King Mohammed VI.

Royal Air Maroc (RAM) and the Qatar Blockade

Morocco’s flag carrier, Royal Air Maroc, said that it will maintain its five weekly flights to Doha although it cancelled flights transiting through Doha Airport to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

In this context, Royal Air Maroc explained in a statement that “it will continue serving its customers connection flights in Doha in partnership with Qatar Airways with the exception of four countries: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt.”

The Moroccan airline requested its customers who bought tickets to the four cancelled destinations to contact the company’s call centre to get further information.

Morocco opted for neutrality in the Gulf crisis involving Qatar. So far 7 Arab countries severed ties with Doha-Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen and Mauritania- over accusations of supporting terrorism and sidelining with Iran.

“Morocco is closely following the unfolding of events in the Gulf countries and the Moroccan diplomacy, known for restraint and wisdom, is in contact with all countries to understand what happened,” Morocco’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita told the local press.

Despite geographic distance, Morocco maintains strong ties with GCC countries, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In April 2016, a GCC-Morocco summit stressed the importance of the strategic partnership binding the two parties.

Eid Al Fitr

Moroccans can expect to welcome Eid Al Fitr on Monday, June 26, breaking the fast on the 30th day of Ramadan. according to the astrological predictions of Rabat Society of Astronomy.

The president of Rabat’s Society of Astronomy, Abdel-Hafiz Bani, says that its astronomers are expecting the date of Eid al-Fitr to be on the sunset of the twenty-ninth day of the Hijri month.

France 24 Banned in Morocco?

According to some sources Moroccan authorities have prohibited the activities of the media channel France 24 in Morocco.

The ban would have been formulated verbally on Sunday, by the Ministry of Communication to the company that produces the broadcasts of the channel in Morocco.

The reason: the Moroccan authorities point the finger "a partial and non-objective coverage of the events of the Rif, the dissemination of unverified information".

Meanwhile, the channel's management has still not received official confirmation of the ban, which comes just 24 hours before the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Morocco, scheduled for 14 and 15 June in Rabat.

Meanwhile, in the Rif

Minister of Interior Abdelouafi Laftit made a “surprise” visit to Al Hoceima on Monday for the second time in a month.

Laftit has been accompanied by a ministerial delegation comprising of Minister of Equipment, Transport, Logistics and Water, Abdelkader Aamara, his Secretary of State, Charafat Afilal and the General Director of the National Office of Water and Electricity, Ali Fassi Fihri.

On his visit, Laftit will meet with the president of the regional council for Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima, Ilyas El Omari, and the region’s Wali, Mohamed Yaakoubi.

An unnamed source stated that officials are expected to be informed on the development of projects in the region, especially those regarding sustainable development, like the Menarat Al-Mutawasat project in the Al Hoceima area.

Charafat Afilal visited the region with the General Director of the National Office of Drinking Water in order to propose a solution to the city’s water shortages, which are particularly rife during summer.

Laftit’s visit comes a day after thousands took part in a mass march in Rabat in solidarity with Rif protesters.

Protesters in downtown Rabat on Sunday

The October 2016 death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, who was fatally crushed to death in a trash compactor, sparked eight months of protests in the Al Houceima in northern Morocco. These demonstrations have intensified in recent weeks due to the arrest of the movement’s leader Nasser Zafzafi and detention of at least 85 other activists.

In a bid to halt these demonstrations and respond to the socioeconomic demands of protesters, the Moroccan government announced on May 23 a plan to invest MAD 10 billion in the region.

French President to Visit

French President Emmanuel Macron will pay an official visit to Morocco on June 14-15, the Elysée announced.

The visit to Morocco will be the first for the French President to the Maghreb after his election last May. This first visit to Morocco and to the Maghreb by President Macron, who will be accompanied by his wife Brigitte, “will strengthen the relations and the ties between our two countries”, the Elysée added.

The visit will add momentum to the excellent partnership between Morocco and France. During his stay in Morocco, the French President will hold talks with King Mohammed VI on issues of mutual concern, notably the situation in the Maghreb, the Sahel and the Middle East.

President Macron will also meet the Head of Government and the Speakers of the two chambers of the Parliament.

The French President is expected to give a press conference on June 15 at the end of his visit to Morocco.

The fact that President Macron chose Morocco for his first trip in the region mirrors the excellent political, economic, and cultural ties binding the two countries and evidences the continuity marking French-Moroccan partnership.

It also fulfills some of the electoral promises made by Emmanuel Macron who ambitions to foster further his country’s relations with the Maghreb and with Africa that he described in an interview during his presidential campaign as “the continent of the future”, which witnessed “unprecedented transformation” and “steady growth since 2000”. And precisely, in Morocco, seen in France as a showcase of successful Africa, President Macron and his team would not find it difficult to find partners for economic initiatives in West Africa or political initiatives in the Sahel region.

Mirroring the excellence of political relations between the two countries, bilateral economic ties have also been bolstered in recent years. In 2015, 17% of France’s foreign direct investments, i.e. €484 million of the total net foreign direct investment were received by Morocco, mainly in industry.

With some 750 subsidiaries of French companies, Morocco is the leading destination of French investment on the African continent.


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