Rabat – Despite reports that Mike Pompeo’s much-anticipated visit to Morocco would mostly feature prospective normalization between Morocco and Israel, the US State Department’s statement about the visit makes no mention of diplomatic normalization between the two countries.
Pompeo flew to Rabat on December 5, to meet with several senior officials as part of what has largely been described as Rabat and Washington’s “shared desire” to broaden diplomatic relations.
Pompeo’s visit comes to strengthen the “value” of the US-Morocco partnership and the importance of cooperation between the two countries in different fields, security and trade in particular, the statement said.
Prior to his visit, Pompeo described Morocco as “one of the strongest” US allies in the region. He particularly highlighted Morocco’s lauded counterterrorism intelligence and operations.
This aspect of the US-Morocco cooperation was the most notable in the State Department’s statement of Pompeo’s visit. The statement described how the US supports Morocco’s efforts to instill peace in the region to counter “the Iranian regime’s malign activities.”
Morocco is among the countries that have shared concerns about Iran and its activities to interfere in domestic affairs, with the kingdom severing ties with Iran in May 2018.
Rabat accused Tehran of collaborating with the Polisario Front through its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.
Also included in the statement was the historical significance of the Morocco-US alliance. The statement suggested that Morocco played a particular role in US history as it was the first country to recognize the US shortly after its independence in 1777. Morocco established official diplomatic relations with the US the same year.
“That same year, Morocco opened its ports to the ships of the new American republic, allowing us to engage in trade and commerce and supporting our fight for freedom. Our friendship has endured,” the statement explained.
Concerns about normalization
Moroccan activists continue to express concerns about any potential normalization with Israel.
The concerns are in line the Moroccan state’s longterm solidarity for the Palestinian cause.
Reacting to Pompeo’s visit earlier today, , the Moroccan Observatory against Normalization said: “[The]visit of American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Rabat … angered the anti-normalization [activists].The zionist entity is an enemy for Moroccan people and for Morocco.”
The observatory also warned that “whoever wants or tried to plunge Morocco into the quagmire of normalization in the state or society he is just an obedient servant, an obedientt servant of the Zionist circles and its terrorist entity.”
In more measured language, the Moroccan government has also repeatedly repelled any suggestions of normalization with Israel. The country continues to openly affirm its support fo the Palestinian case and defend the legitimate rights of Palestinian people.
This is not the first time that anti-normalization activists have shared fears over US official visits. Similar concerns were also shared during the visit of senior official Jared Kushner earlier this year.
Morocco remains partner to tackle security issues
The statement from the US Department also spoke about Morocco’s leadership in security and its contribution to peace in Africa, with more than 2,000 Moroccan soldiers active in UN peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
Morocco “plays a key role in expanding regional security capabilities,” the statement said.
The press release indicated that the North African country is also a vital ally in “the Administration’s campaign to promote regional security and will host the Warsaw Process Counterterrorism Working Group” in February 2020.
In addition to its counterterrorism approach, Morocco’s efforts to promote coexistence and tolerance are also much lauded in the international community.
“Morocco is a recognized regional leader in promoting religious co-existence and interfaith dialogue,” the US department of state has concluded.