The US is one of the traditional allies that continue to reiterate its willingness to boost diplomatic ties with Morocco.

If anything good should come out of the latest confirmation of the European Union’s continuous ambiguity and ambivalence regarding its “strategic partnerships” with Morocco, it should be the fact that the European bloc has once again lent credence to the idea that Morocco needs to shift its focus to both diversifying its network of partners and solidifying ties with its more reliable, committed traditional allies.

One of these more reliable friends is the US. Where the EU has fumbled and frustrated Rabat over the past two years, Washington has essentially reassured Morocco of its readiness to deepen an already solid, strategic partnership with Rabat. 

And just this past Wednesday, the Biden administration renewed the US’ determination to further strengthen diplomatic relations and bilateral cooperation with Morocco at different levels, including trade and security, among others.

As she visited Rabat and ended a round of meetings with senior Moroccan officials on Wednesday this week, the US Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Michele Sison, conveyed her country’s keenness to bolster ties with Morocco. 

In a press briefing following talks with Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sison reiterated the US’ support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as the most “serious, credible, and realistic solution” to end the dispute over the Western Sahara region.

Relations between Rabat and Washington reached a turning point in December 2020, in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s proclamation announcing the US’ recognition of Morocco’s full sovereignty over its southern provinces in the Western Sahara region.

The proclamation was dispatched to 193 Member States of the UN as an official Security Council document translated into six official UN languages.

During her visit to Morocco this week, Sison recalled the need to maintain the significantly strategic cooperation between Rabat and Washington. In particular, she drew attention to Morocco’s regional leadership in promoting peace and security in the Middle East, North Africa, and around the world.

Morocco hosts several UN agencies, stressing the country’s regional leadership and commitment to multilateral diplomacy, she indicated.

Mutual respect without interference

Sison’s renewing of the US’ continued support for Morocco’s position over the Sahara and development reforms came amid European countries’ ambiguity challenging the North African country’s sovereignty over its southern provinces. 

These challenges were intensified by the European Parliament’s recent adoption of a  hostile resolution that interfered in Morocco’s domestic affairs by casting doubts on the country’s human rights advances and the independence of its judiciary. 

Adopted last Thursday by 356 votes for, 32 against, and 42 abstentions, the resolution notably accused Morocco of “harassing” and “intimidating” journalists, activists, and dissidents in the diaspora.

With the resolution coming on the heels of a series of diplomatic rows between Rabat and Paris, many observers believe that France remains the only EU powerhouse that may have had a hand in the EU Parliament’s backtracking on its previous statements praising Morocco’s reforms on a wide range of issues, including human rights. 

The latest illustration of France’s attachment to its neo-colonial mentality came just recently after controversial remarks were made by French experts on the country’s foreign policy in Africa.

A video of the two French experts speaking on their country’s policy suggested that  France’s negligence has “allowed Morocco to position itself as an assertive player in Africa.”

Meanwhile, France has been criticized in much of francophone Africa for its “arrogance” and condescending attitude towards its former colonies. 

In August of last year, Mali’s government urged President Macron to abandon his “neocolonial and patronizing” attitudes” against Mali, stressing that the French President and France need to “understand that no one can love Mali better than Malians.”

Half-hearted support

While claiming its traditional support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan and the country’s development, France continues to adopt ambiguous positions within the international community.

French news outlet LeMonde acknowledged earlier this month that ties between Rabat and Paris have “turned cold.”

“Praised in official speeches, the ‘exceptional partnership’ between France and Morocco is stained by a rise in tensions over visa restrictions, Western Sahara, and Emmanuel Macron’s renewed courtship of Algeria,” Le Monde reported on January 3.

Observers see France’s attitude as part of the European country’s rejection of Morocco’s growing leadership and influence in different fields, including security.

As the Moroccan foreign policy analyst Samir Bennis has put it, “In the neo-colonial imagination of the French ruling class, it is inconceivable that Paris would treat Rabat as an equal.” 

France is well aware of losing its pre-eminence in recent years due to Morocco’s diversified partnerships.

During her visit to Morocco in December 2022, France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna responded to questions about the matter but used diplomatic jargon to hide her country’s frustration over losing its position as Morocco’s main foreign investor.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna with her Moroccan countepart Nasser Bourita.

After being Morocco’s largest foreign investor for over a decade, France lost its position in the first half of last year to the US.

According to data from the Moroccan national Exchange Office, Morocco received MAD 6.3 billion ($578 million) in investments from the US  in the first half of 2022, compared to MAD 5.6 billion ($513.7 million) from France.

Speaking about this development, Colonna said that there is a need to “put things in context.”

“The current economic context is unprecedented. It is a context of multiple crises, which we have to deal with Covid, Russia’s war in Ukraine, rising energy prices, etc,” she told the Moroccan news outlet Le Matin.

The chief of French diplomacy said that Morocco is “diversifying its trade partnerships.”

She described Morocco’s diversification as “normal,” saying: “That’s what we all do, that’s what we have to do, that’s normal and healthy for the economy of our countries.”

While all countries, including European states, are working to diversify partnerships, many of them are aware of Morocco’s geostrategic position – which makes the North African kingdom a double gateway to Africa and Europe.

Spain, for example, is satisfied with the newfound roadmap of cooperation with Morocco, ending the two countries’ year-long diplomatic crisis.

On Tuesday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said good diplomatic ties with Morocco will not only be good for his country but also for the European Union.

He emphasized that there are facts that “confirm” Morocco’s importance for both Spain and Europe, stressing his willingness to continue these strong ties.
In particular, Sanchez reiterated Madrid’s readiness to “always defend the preservation of good relations with Morocco.”

Speaking of Morocco and Spain’s efforts to tackle irregular migration, Sanchez said: “Of all the migratory routes to Europe, the only one that has diminished is that from Morocco to Spain.”

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