Days before the Western Sahara talks in Geneva, the Moroccan agriculture minister has visited Algiers to discuss the blue economy.
Rabat – Moroccan Minister of Agriculture, Sea Fisheries, Rural Development, Waters, and Forests Aziz Akhannouch led a delegation to the WestMed conference yesterday, held in Algeria this year.
WestMed began in 2016 and is an annual meeting by Algeria, Spain, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Mauritania, Portugal and Tunisia that focuses on working towards the economic, political, and environmental improvements in the western Mediterranean region.
One of the main goals set by the organization is to develop a “blue economy,” one that sustainably uses resources from the sea, by 2022. The EU lauded the goal, especially after Spain and Portugal were asked earlier this year to reduce their overfishing of sardines in 2019, due to depleting global populations.
Although the focus of the conference was on international maritime cooperation, Akhannouch’s trip to the Algerian capital also occurred as upcoming talks involving the two countries loom. The countries have been at odds for decades, especially over the sensitive issue of Western Sahara. The Moroccan-Algerian border is now extremely militarized with increasing tensions, prompting alarm and calls for calm in the international community.
In the past, Morocco has accused Algeria of attempting to isolate the country from the Maghreb, as well as funding the rebellious Polisario movement, but King Mohammed VI wants to turn over a new leaf, calling for constructive talks in November between the two countries, in an attempt to thaw the icy relationship between the two nations. The UN voiced support for talks, but Algeria has not officially responded to the King’s offer.
Meanwhile, the two countries are scheduled to meet tomorrow and Thursday, December 5-6, at a UN roundtable in Geneva for talks on Western Sahara. Mauritania and Polisario will also attend the talks, called by Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General Horst Kohler.