Morocco, keen to capitalize on its reputation as a bastion of stability and diversity in its region, continues to push for an integrated and peaceful MENA region.
Rabat – King Mohammed VI has sent a message of good wishes and fraternity to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, several Moroccan news outlets have reported. The gesture is the latest in a series of similar moves towards other MENA countries.
The royal message, according to Morocco’s official outlet Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), is consistent with the Moroccan monarch’s insistence on the need for collective action to solve the MENA region’s most urgent matters.
King Mohammed VI’s “friendship and brotherly” message to the Qatari emir was carried to Doha by foreign minister Nasser Bourita, who has been on a tour in the Gulf to reiterate Rabat’s belief in regional geopolitics without internal conflicts.
King Mohammed VI’s message is that the region needs concerted efforts to facilitate “collaboration on the most crucial issues of security and human and economic development,” reports have concurred.
While reports have so far not indicated the content of the sealed letter to the Qatari emir, it is understood that the message contains the usual Moroccan calls for more unified MENA responses on some of the “most crucial regional issues.”
On the bilateral front, King Mohammed VI expressed satisfaction at the strong ties between Rabat and Doha, promising the Qatari emir that Rabat wants to preserve the historical and cultural bonds between the two nations, MAP suggested.
In response, Qatar, which has increasingly been a source of financial and moral support for a number of Moroccan interests, promised to further the positives of the Rabat-Qatar cooperation.
So far, Bourita has attended audiences with the highest echelons of power in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and now Qatar. In all instances, MAP has stressed, the Moroccan minister “extended the King’s good wishes and brother greetings” to his hosts.
Rabat’s ‘constructive neutrality’
Bourita’s meetings with many regional leaders in a brief time span fall within the frame of King Mohammed VI’s insistent calls for basing regional politics on a culture of “shared responsibilities.”
Cohesion has been the distinctive mark of Morocco’s “royal diplomacy” in the past decade, and Bourita’s tour will come as no surprise to watchers of Morocco’s foreign policy.
But even in the current context, the recent story of Qatar and Morocco’s shift towards each other has had features of being an outlier. Morocco’s policy of “constructive neutrality” in the latest Gulf crisis has been particularly useful in cementing the Doha-Rabat relations.
Rabat, deciding to reject the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar to uphold what it called Morocco’s right to an independent foreign policy, was there for Qatar at the outset of the crisis, sending humanitarian aid to the nation.
While the humanitarian support was symbolic in many regards—Qatar has considerable financial resources—the move bore fruits in cementing Doha-Rabat ties. In the process, Saudi Arabia has reportedly accused Rabat of siding with Qatar while feigning neutrality.
Morocco has dismissed the claims and insisted that its “historical” ties with Saudi Arabia did not necessarily mean it had to blindly follow Saudi interests at the expense of its own regional agenda, which it said envisions building a strong, rather than a fragmented, MENA.
The neutrality policy has won Morocco plaudits in Qatari media and Doha-friendly circles, leading the Gulf country to emphatically embrace Rabat. In Qatari media discourses following Morocco’s “principled” refusal to side with the blockade, King Mohammed VI was touted the “first blockade breaker.”
This may have prompted the Qatari emir to be the first world leader to call King Mohammed VI after Morocco failed to win the hosting rights of the 2026 World Cup.
Appearing to take upon himself the responsibility of soothing a blow after “betrayal” from a number of Arab and African countries during the FIFA voting process, Emir Al Thani promised King Mohammed VI that he would personally finance another Moroccan bid to host the World Cup.
The Qatari leader said that he understood that hosting the footballing masterpiece event was a “national dream” for Moroccans and that Qatar would throw its financial might and “brotherly support” behind Morocco to help it materialize that aspiration.
Doha’s Africa turn?
For all the reported Doha-Rabat bromance story, there have been suggestions that while the growing bilateral partnership is genuine, Qatar’s own ambitions to emerge from the shadows of Turkey, Iran, and the now-weakened Gulf Council crisis have shaped its heightened focus on Morocco.
The idea is that while Doha is an established financial power, it can barely claim Morocco’s level of strategic importance in number of global issues, ranging from migration to security and anti-terrorism.
Through a solid presence in Morocco, the argument goes, Qatar wants to gradually make for itself a place in African affairs, a field where Rabat has recently grown as a trend-setter and invaluable partner for many governments.
Foreign policy often is a story of communication theatrics where events are exaggerated, understated, or altogether shunned, depending on who is telling the story.
And while all the hype—positive or negative—around the Rabat-Doha romance should be taken with a grain of salt, the two countries have been adamant about their “commitment to common interests and principles.”
Qatar, the speaker of the Qatari Advisory Council said in March of this year, has a “special respect” for Moroccan interests.