Faced with reports of a coordination with pro-Polisario circles to challenge Moroccan interests, the Egyptian ambassador is adamant that his country is a strong Moroccan ally.
Rabat – Amid speculations of spite between Rabat and Cairo over Egypt’s position on Western Sahara, the Egyptian ambassador to Morocco has strongly dismissed claims that Egypt is backing the Polisario Front’s self-determination claims.
Speaking to Moroccan outlet Le 360, Ambassador Achraf Ibrahim sought to “clarify” Cairo’s position on the Western Sahara dispute, saying that Egypt has never supported Polisario.
The outlet describes Ambassador Ibrahim as “very firm and explicit” in his dismissal of claims that his country has been a Polisario backer. The ambassador said, according to Le 360, “Egypt has not and will never recognize what is called Polisario.”
Egypt seeking to reclaim past prestige
When Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was appointed earlier this year to take charge of the revolving African Union presidency for the 2019-2020 tenure, there were fears that Egypt could undermine the considerable progress Morocco has made within the AU since returning to the organization in January 2017.
Those fears were born out of the perception that Morocco did not warmly welcome President el-Sissi’s rise to political power in 2013 through a military intervention to topple the democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi.
The suggestion was that President el-Sissi, who had made statements that appeared to lean towards self-determination in Western Sahara, would use his continental leadership to counter Rabat’s African overtures.
Also included in the fears was the belief that Egypt is poised to reclaim the MENA and African leadership position it had in the post-colonial period.
Since Morocco has established itself as an indispensable continental player, the argument suggested, Egypt’s continental dreams would undermine or contain Morocco’s expanding clout.
Most recently, a Polisario delegation attended an AU conference in Egypt.
The news reinforced the perception is some circles that Egypt was set on undermining Rabat’s recent continental overtures. (In both African and world affairs, the Western Sahara question is the thorniest diplomatic issue for Morocco, the red flag that both countries and companies quickly raise when challenging Moroccan interests.)
Strong bilateral relations
According to Ambassador Ibrahim, however, the presence of the Polisario delegation in Cairo meant nothing. Rather, he argued, as the chair of the AU, Egypt is restricted in some of its moves in continental issues.
The suggestion is that, while Cairo does not support Polisario’s claims, it decided not to spark controversy at the continental level. Some African countries—and the AU in its current Constitution—recognize the Polisario-governed self-styled SADR.
“I can assure you that our position on Western Sahara is clear,” Ibrahim declared. He added that it has never been question of “coordination” with Polisario or its supporters.
Describing Rabat-Cairo relations as “very strong,” the ambassador revealed that both Egypt and Morocco are actively working on an upcoming visit to Egypt by King Mohammed VI. “When he visited Cairo in January, Bourita and his Egyptian counterpart discussed the preparations for the visit,” he said.