Emmanuel Macron has sent a top official to Rabat to meet Morocco’s FM in a bid to reduce tensions over both immigration and France’s ambiguous position on Western Sahara
Morocco’s government is hoping that France will support its sovereignty claims in Western Sahara as part of an “appeasement” Paris is reported to be about to make with Rabat, recent reports suggest.
France is reportedly working to “find appeasement gestures” in an attempt to put an end to a lingering diplomatic crisis with Morocco, according to the state owned news agency, Agence France-Presse.
As part of the rapprochement move, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna will visit Morocco on an official trip from December 15-16, confirmed by officials on December 8th.
The minister is expected to prepare the ground for Macron’s visit to Morocco in January and will meet foreign minister Nasser Bourita.
The visa restrictions imposed on Moroccans, intensified due to a limited level of support for Rabat’s position on Western Sahara dispute have “triggered episodes of unprecedented tension between the two countries” according to AFP.
In September 2021, the French government dramatically limited the number of Moroccans wishing to enter France, due, it claims, to Rabat refusing to take more responsibility for Moroccan criminals in France.
Some analysts in Rabat argue that the tensions though have been compounded by Macron’s position on Western Sahara and a new warmth towards Algeria.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan for Western Sahara is “a basis” on which “serious and credible talks” can be built. However, when pushed, he wouldn’t support Rabat on the question of sovereignty unlike Spain.
For Rabat, this is the basis of a lot of bad feeling towards Paris, particularly given that Morocco’s King has issued a clear message to all partners of his country to take a clear, polarized view on the dossier.
“…I therefore expect certain states among Morocco’s traditional partners as well as new ones, whose stances concerning the Morocccanness of the Sahara are ambiguous, to clarify their positions and reconsider them in a manner that leaves no room for doubt,” the king said, stressing that the Sahara issue is the lens “through which Morocco looks at the world.”
He underlined that Morocco’s Sahara cause is “the clear, simple benchmark whereby my country measures the sincerity of friendships and the efficiency of partnerships.”
After months of “silent crisis”, Macron and King Mohammed resumed contact on November 1 in view of a forthcoming visit by the French president.
Morocco offers a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa, where it actively exercises its “soft power” economy since the 2010s. It is France’s leading trading partner in Africa.
In an effort to warm up bilateral ties, Paris could ease its visa policy that has sparked anger and outrage among Moroccans, especially the Francophile middle class. Although this is unlikely given the political tension that Macron is under in his own country. More likely, Macron will attempt to raise the diplo talk up a notch to keep the Moroccan king happy – in return for a more receptive attitude towards the prickly subject of Moroccan criminals in France which Macron wants sent back to Morocco.