The visit comes one year after Le Drian’s trip to Morocco last November, when he arrived to discuss means to boost bilateral cooperation.
Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita received on Monday France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Le Drian arrived in Morocco on Sunday with the aim of strengthening Rabat-Paris bilateral cooperation.
Le Drian’s agenda for Monday includes discussions with high-level Moroccan officials on ways to improve relations, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.
During his meeting with Bourita, Le Drian discussed several topics of shared interest, including the Libyan crisis.
Morocco plays an active role in regional and international efforts to the conflict in Libya, calling on all parties to engage in dialogue to find a solution for the crisis.
Morocco notably hosted three round-tables of talks, convening several delegations from Libya’s rival parties in Bouznika.
During Monday’s meeting in Rabat, Le Drian and Bourita also discussed the situation in the Sahel, one of the dossiers that cause security concerns for Morocco and all other countries in the region.
Addressing France’s security challenges
Le Drian also met with Morocco’s Minister of Islamic Affairs Ahmed Toufiq, the French Embassy in Rabat reported.
Several countries, including France, see Morocco’s approach against radicalism and extremism as effective.
In the wake of increasing security challenges in the Mediterranean, Morocco is among the countries that enjoy stability. The country also has a key role in countering violent extremist discourses, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel through its imam training program.
The meeting between Toufiq and Le Drian comes after France vowed to cancel a program allowing imams to enter the European country in the wake of an increase of violent attacks.
Morocco is one of the countries that sends imams to France as part of the program.
Recently, extremists carried out a series of attacks in France, with the country describing the events as “Islamist terrorism.”
On October 16, an 18-year-old student from Russia killed French teacher Samuel Paty for displaying cartoons deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad and Islam during a class.
A few weeks later, a man from Tunisia killed three people near a church in Nice.
Morocco remains a reliable partner
October’s attacks shocked France, with President Emmanuel Macron making controversial remarks that sparked frustration among Muslims in the European country and around the world.
Macron said his country will never give up the cartoons after Paty’s murder. Prior to the attacks in October, he claimed Islam is in crisis worldwide.
Muslims across the world, including in Morocco, expressed determination to join a boycott campaign against Fench products in response to Macron’s divisive rhetoric.
Macron described the campaign as “unworthy” and “unacceptable” and said that his country is not fighting Islam but Islamist separatism.
France is also certain that Morocco, given its close ties with the former colonial power, will not engage in the boycott campaign.
“As soon as things are clarified between France and Morocco about the position of France regarding Islam, I have no doubt that our partnerships will continue to amplify in the future,” France’s Minister of Trade Franck Reister said last month.
Morocco’s government condemned the attacks against Paty and near the church in Nice, but also denounced the repetitive publication of the caricatures that offend Muslims.
“Freedom of an individual ends where the freedom of others and their beliefs begins,” Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Le Drian’s meeting with Morocco’s top religious official emphasizes the value France gives to the North African country’s approach to countering extremist threats.
Le Drian’s visit adds to the already-advanced diplomatic relations between France and Morocco. The countries host frequent diplomatic exchanges and meetings between officials.
France and Morocco describe their relationship as strong at all levels, including cooperation against terrorism, politics, and trade.
Last year, France’s exports to Morocco amounted to $5.29 billion. During the same year, Morocco’s exports to France stood at $6.34 billion.
The French government describes the Morocco-France relations as exemplary while emphasizing the importance of Rabat as a bridge between the EU and Africa.
In October, Morocco’s Minister of Trade Moulay Hafid El Alami said the “exceptional relations between Morocco and France constitute an opportunity to better jointly address the challenges resulting from COVID-19.”
Both countries also acknowledge the importance of shared responsibility and cooperation to tackle some of the security challenges in the Mediterranean region.
In October, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin visited Morocco to discuss security challenges and cooperation.
During his official working visit to Morocco, his first outside the EU, Darmanin met with Morocco’s Minister of the Interior Abdelouafi Laftit and described relations between his country and Rabat as “excellent.”
He spoke about the importance of the cooperation between Rabat and Paris against irregular migration, drug trafficking, and terrorism, to which Morocco’s approach triumphs, according to several international partners.
Le Drian’s visit comes one year after his previous visit to Rabat in November 2019, when he held discussions with officials to strengthen bilateral relations between Morocco and France.