Regional tensions may have contributed to Bourita’s snub of the Emirates.
Rabat – Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita finished his tour of five Gulf countries, excluding the United Arab Emirates.
On March 28, Bourita and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi held a joint press conference to address Morocco’s diplomatic relationships in the Gulf as well as the situation in Libya.
Bourita focused on the historical roots of Morocco’s relationships with the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. According to Bourita, Morocco has and continues to seek to preserve and strengthen those relationships. Unfortunately, Morocco does not always agree with those countries with regards to policy.
Bourita focused on the message that, to Morocco, foreign policy is a matter of sovereignty and is founded on principles and constants.
But Bourita’s speech at the press conference did not specifically address the choice to exclude the Emirates from his tour.
The situation in Libya is part of a recent series of policy disagreements between Morocco and its two Gulf allies.
While Morocco has been consistently active in Libya, its actions have been to encourage a political process to solve the Libyan crisis instead of a military intervention. The Moroccan government has expressed the belief that military intervention is a recipe for disaster which would create chaos and instability, not only in Libya, but throughout the region.
Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of eastern Libya, launched an offensive against Tripoli early this month. Fighting has since been raging around the Libyan capital. Moroccan fears about instability have increased with the violent clashes.
Haftar’s army is funded in large part by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, a choice which runs counter to Morocco’s policy of non-intervention in Libya.
Reports of tensions
Morocco’s relationships with other Arab countries are significant not just for political reasons but for economic ones as well. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are two of the top sources of foreign investment in Morocco.
The Emirates is Morocco’s second largest trading partner in the Gulf region and third largest investor.
In the past months, tensions have reportedly increased between Morocco and its Saudi and Emirati allies, although the governments of Morocco and Saudi Arabia have both officially dismissed reports of tensions.
The alleged friction rapidly degenerated after Al-Arabiya, a pro-Saudi government television channel, aired a documentary which challenged Morocco’s Western Sahara claims. In February, Rabat recalled Mohamed Aitouali, the Moroccan ambassador to the Emirates. The recalling of ambassadors is often used by countries to express disapproval of a country’s policy.
Amid reports of escalating tensions with Morocco’s Gulf allies, however, King Mohammed VI recently said Morocco and the Emirates are “sister nations.” The King recalled his father Hassan II’s pride in the close relationship he developed with the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and expressed a desire to maintain a similarly close relationship in the future.