In an interview with Al Jazeera, Morocco’s foreign minister reviewed the blockade on Qatar, Saudi-Moroccan relations, Iran, Syria, and more.
Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita gave an interview to Al Jazeera, explaining recent developments in Moroccan diplomacy.
Bourita’s interview was aired yesterday on the Bila Houdoud (Without Borders) television program.
The interview started with an overview on the Gulf crisis. Al Jazeera journalist Jalal Chahda asked Bourita whether Morocco’s neutrality in the crisis created tension between Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Bourita denied that there is tension between the two kingdoms. Instead, he said, Morocco was clear in its neutrality statement and has attempted to get to the bottom of the crisis between the Saudi coalition and Qatar.
According to the official, the crisis was unfortunate because the Gulf Cooperation Council, which has since been dissolved, was the “only point of light in the Arab world.”
Bourita also recalled that Morocco offered to mediate in the Gulf crisis because Morocco’s destiny is linked to the stability of the region.
“If the parties so wish, the Kingdom of Morocco is ready to offer its services to foster a frank and comprehensive dialogue,” Morocco said at the time.
Morocco also sent food assistance to Qatar. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited religion as a reason “especially during the month of Ramadan where solidarity among Muslim people is required.”
King Mohammed VI was also the first world leader to visit Qatar after the blockade, earning the nickname by Qataris as the “blockade breaker.”
Morocco’s position on MBS, Yemen
The Moroccan official acknowledged that Morocco was originally part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s world tour in November 2018. Bin Salman, also known as MBS, made stops in Tunisia, Algeria, and Mauritania but skipped Morocco.
Bourita said that Bin Salman did not visit Morocco due to the country’s schedule:“If relationships are measured by different schedules, this trivializes the relationship.”
In November 2018, rumors ran wild that Bin Salman had snubbed Morocco. But a government source confirmed to Morocco World News that actually, Morocco had turned MBS down.
The source told MWN that King Mohammed VI suggested that he would not receive MBS, but that Bin Salman could meet the King’s brother, Moulay Rachid. However, MBS rejected the King’s offer.
Increasing rumors of diplomatic tension, Morocco decided not to participate in the Red Wave naval exercise in Saudi Arabia from December 30 to January 4, 2019.
Bourita said that Morocco had participated in Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen, but then decided to “change our participation” after further evaluation, which resulted in Morocco’s absence from the military maneuvers and Arab meetings.
He added that Morocco supports the Gulf’s plans and would be against anything that undermined the stability of the UAE and Saudi Arabia from Yemen. But Morocco expressed concerns over the humanitarian aspects of the Yemen war. He added that the Yemeni people do not deserve the suffering they are experiencing.
Iran’s only response is to ask for evidence
The interview did not exclude the Moroccan-Iranian diplomatic crisis. Bourita recalled that Morocco cut ties with Iran in May 2018 because of Hezbollah’s collusion with Polisario. He added that Morocco provided evidence of the collusion, but Iran denied that Hezbollah trained and equipped the separatist group.
Bourita said that diplomatic ties between the two countries had not been good since 2009 when Rabat last cut ties with Iran after accusing it of spreading Shi’ism in Morocco.
Morocco renewed ties with Iran in 2014, but their diplomatic bonds started to weaken after Morocco handed over Kacem Mohamed Tajeddine, one of Hezbollah’s top financiers, to the US.
According to Bourita, the Moroccan government has not received any explanation from Iran about Hezbollah-Polisario links. He said that Morocco opened negotiations with Iran many times, but “saw that Iran entered in issues that affect Morocco’s interests and security.”
Bourita said, “there should be Arab coordination concerning Syria‘s return to the Arab League.”
Egypt also supports the idea. In a press conference co-chaired with Bourita earlier this month in Cairo, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to return to the Arab League.
“There’s a need to get out of the current crisis in Syria through the political framework sponsored by the UN envoy in Geneva,” said Shoukry.
Syria was suspended from its membership in the Arab league after Assad’s crackdown on protesters during the early phase of its civil war in 2011.