Amid turbulent Morocco-Saudi ties, King Salman bin Abdulaziz discussed Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Morocco in a phone call with King Mohammed VI.
Rabat – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has called King Mohammed VI and requested Morocco to review their “brotherly relationship.”
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced the phone call in a statement on March 21.
The phone call comes two months after Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita vaguely announced in an Al Jazeera interview that Morocco had withdrawn its troops from the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen against Houthi rebels.
Many have speculated about the seemingly stormy relationship between Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
Morocco took a neutral stance in the Saudi-led blockade on Qatar. A few days after the start of the blockade, King Mohammed VI asked the Moroccan government to dispatch food assistance to Qatar. In November 2017, King Mohammed VI flew from the United Arab Emirates to Qatar, being the first head of state to break the air blockade imposed on the small Gulf nation.
Morocco’s neutrality and its offer to mediate the Gulf crisis did not resonate with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who many regard as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.
In the months leading up to a FIFA vote in which Morocco was vying to host the 2026 World Cup, an advisor to the Saudi royal family and Saudi sports authority Turki Al Sheikh made unfriendly comments about Morocco. Morocco lost the vote to the North American bid in June 2018.
In February, Bourita denied Morocco’s relationship with Saudi Arabia was under stress after international media reported that Morocco recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mustapha Mansouri. Bourita said the ambassador had returned to Rabat for a consultation.
The Moroccan move came after the Saudi pro-government Al Arabiya television channel aired a documentary on Western Sahara, which was viewed as hostile to Morocco’s position on the conflict.
The documentary displayed Western Sahara as an “occupied” territory, making the Polisario Front’s claims legitimate.
Moroccans also took offense when the Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA) posted on Facebook a map showing Western Sahara removed from the Moroccan map.
It remains to be seen whether this phone call will contribute to rekindling the strained relations between the two countries and give them a new impetus.