The Moroccan and Saudi foreign ministers reiterated that the two countries enjoy exceptional bilateral relations, despite long-running rumors of a rift lurking beneath the surface of Rabat-Riyadh diplomacy.
Rabat – Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita met with his Saudi counterpart on Wednesday, and the two officials reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral relations.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, said his July 29 talks with Bourita “focused on various aspects of the close relations uniting the two brotherly countries, in particular within the framework of a solid and historic fraternity,” Morocco’s state media reported.
In addition to discussions of regional challenges, the foreign ministers expressed a mutual interest in improving diplomatic ties between Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Bin Farhan called for stronger relations between Morocco and Saudi Arabia through “permanent coordination in all areas, in the service of the interests of the two countries and of the two fraternal peoples, in accordance with the guidelines of the leaders of the two countries.”
He added that his meeting with Bourita “reflects the harmony and visions between the two countries in light of the challenges facing the Arab world, in particular, the scourge of foreign interference, terrorism, and of the destabilization of security and stability in the region.”
“Morocco and Saudi Arabia are working to lay the foundations for peace in the region,” the Saudi foreign minister underlined.
Le Ministre des Affaires Étrangères, de la Coopération Africaine et des Marocains Résidant à l’Étranger,M. Nasser Bourita s’est entretenu le mercredi 29 juillet avec Son Altesse le Prince @FaisalbinFarhan Al Saud,Ministre des Affaires Étrangères du Royaume d’#ArabieSaoudite. pic.twitter.com/6LLpyU2FXn
— Maroc Diplomatie 🇲🇦 (@MarocDiplomatie) July 29, 2020
The rumored rift between Morocco and Saudi Arabia
Since 2017, rumors of a rift between Morocco and Saudi Arabia have cast a shadow over Rabat-Riyadh diplomacy.
The alleged animosity began when Morocco refused to back the Saudi-led coalition in the Qatar blockade in November 2017. The North African country has maintained neutrality throughout the Gulf crisis, upholding diplomatic ties with both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two main regional rivals.
To the dismay of Saudi Arabia, King Mohammed VI visited Qatar that month and ordered the Moroccan government to send the island country food assistance.
In March 2018, Turki Al Sheikh, an advisor to the Saudi royal family, repeatedly and publicly snubbed Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid.
When Morocco lost the bid in June 2018, international media highlighted “an Arab split on supporting the North African nation.” Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, and the UAE had all voted in favor of the US-led bid.
As Morocco reeled from Saudi Arabia’s “betrayal,” international media continued to float speculations of tension between the two countries.
In February 2019, shortly after Morocco withdrew its military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Saudi state television network Al Arabiya aired a documentary challenging Morocco’s territorial integrity in Western Sahara.
Without directly commenting on the offense, Morocco recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
The ambassador returned to Riyadh in April 2019 with a message of “fraternity” from King Mohammed VI to King Salman of Saudi Arabia. However, speculation that the two countries are at odds continued to swirl.
Wednesday’s meeting between the Moroccan and Saudi foreign ministers represents yet another attempt to lay these rumors to rest.