Diplomatic relations between the two countries started to take a new turn after a Turkish media giant aired a pro-Polisario video clip against Morocco’s territorial integrity last year.
Rabat – The Moroccan government has reportedly recalled its ambassador to Turkey, Ali Lazrak, for consultation amid a rift between Rabat and Ankara.
Morocco recalled Lazrak earlier this month due to Turkey’s foreign policies, especially its decision to deploy troops in Libya, informed sources told Maghreb Intelligence.
Following the deployment, Morocco issued a statement to condemn foreign military intervention and said that such moves only make the situation worse.
The Turkish embassy in Morocco declined to confirm the news to Morocco World News.
With regards to the Rabat-Ankara relations, reports about an alleged rift started to appear when a Turkish media giant, RT, aired a pro-Polisario documentary last year.
The move was an unusual action from the media, which suggested a rift, especially after Morocco called into question the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Turkey.
The two-minute video was a concise biography of the pro-Polisario activist Aminatou Haidar.
Throughout the video, Haidar told how she tried to put pressure on the international community to convince Morocco to leave the “annexed” territories of its southern provinces, claims that are against Morocco’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over Western Sahara.
The move raised doubts about Turkey’s position on the conflict, which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusgolu addressed during a visit to Rabat in December 2019.
He described the featuring of the TRT video as a “misunderstanding,” emphasizing that Turkey does not support any “separatist group or any agenda.”
At the same time, economic relations with Turkey soured.
Morocco’s Minister of Trade Moulay Hafid Elalamy called for Morocco to walk out of the Free Trade Agreement with Turkey, saying it is not mutually beneficial.
Elalamy said Morocco loses $2 billion annually because of the FTA with Turkey.
Morocco’s trade deficit with Turkey has quadrupled since 2006, when the agreement went into effect. The deficit jumped from MAD 4.4 billion in 2006 to MAD 16 billion in 2018.
Because more Moroccan consumers buy Turkish products than vice versa, a removal of the FTA will have a more significant impact on Moroccan consumers than on Turkish consumers, and a stronger impact on Turkish sellers than on Moroccan sellers.
Turkey’s investments in Morocco are growing, with several textile companies entering the Moroccan market. Morocco said it will add a new tariff of 27% on textiles from Turkey despite the FTA.
Earlier this month, Elalamy received a high-level delegation led by Turkish trade minister Ruhsar Peckan. The meeting concluded with both parties agreeing to meet again after 15 days with a solution to either save the deal or dissolve it.
Yesterday, the Moroccan government said it received a request from Turkey to extend the period of negotiations to review the FTA. The period set in the previous meeting expired on January 30. Turkey said it needs another week to meet again with Morocco’s trade delegation to discuss the dispute.
Morocco has also called for political solutions in Libya, in contrast to Turkey’s overt actions. For Morocco, the 2015 Skhirat Agreement signed in Morocco should serve as the only basis to resolve the Libya crisis, but Rabat ended up excluded from the Berlin Conference on the issue.
Morocco issued another statement earlier this month to express frustration and astonishment at its exclusion from the conference.
“Rabat played a decisive role in the conclusion of the Skhirat agreements, which are, to date, the only political framework – supported by the Security Council and accepted by all Libyan parties – for the resolution of the crisis in this brotherly Maghreb country,” the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on January 19.