Moroccan King: 2017 Marks Return to Sahara Dispute Settlement Principles


Rabat – The year 2017 has been the year of “clarity” and return to the standards and principles of the settlement of the dispute over the Moroccan claim to the Sahara, said King Mohammed VI.

“Whereas 2016 was the year of resolve and intransigence, during which we matched action with words to thwart the schemes designed to impinge on our rights, 2017 has been the year of clarity and of a return to the standards and principles for the settlement of the dispute over the ‘Moroccanness’ of the Sahara,” declared the monarch on Sunday in a speech delivered to the nation on the occasion of the 64th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People.

He added that this “firm unambiguous” policy has helped put the process back on the right track, thereby halting the plots designed to divert it into the unknown.

King Mohammed VI noted that this was confirmed by the UN Secretary General’s report, as well as the Security Council resolution adopted last April, be it in terms of commitment to the frame of reference for a settlement, the appreciation of the autonomy proposal as a negotiating framework, or the determination of the legal and political responsibilities of the real party concerned in this regional dispute.

He underlined that the “proactive, composed and firm manner in which we settled the Guerguerat crisis thwarted the efforts to change the facts on the ground in our Sahara and helped put to rest the myth of the liberated territories peddled by Morocco’s enemies.”

In parallel with these developments, international support for the autonomy proposal has continued, as illustrated by the growing number of states that have withdrawn their recognition of the “fictional entity” and by the legal settlement concerning Morocco’s economic partnership with a number of influential powers, he added.

The Moroccan King praised in this respect the serious work and effective action undertaken by the Moroccan diplomatic service to defend the country’s best interests and enhance its credibility.

Morocco-Netherlands Deal Paves Way for Extradition of Ex-Lawmaker

Rabat, Casablanca- Dutch authorities have arrested former Moroccan regional lawmaker Said Chaaou over an international arrest warrant issued by the judiciary in Morocco in 2010 following accusations that he had formed an armed gang and had been involved in international drug trafficking and attempted murder.

The Moroccan foreign ministry said that it would now seek the extradition of Chaaou, who holds the Dutch nationality, from the Netherlands.

“Today’s (Thursday’s) arrest of Said Chaaou, by Dutch authorities, constitutes an important development in the treatment of this affair tied with organized crime,” it said.

Chaaou is also the subject of another arrest warrant linked to tampering with the country’s stability by establishing a movement calling for the Rif region’s independence from Morocco. He is also accused of providing “financial and logistical support” in the protests that the region witnessed in the past months.

His arrest came following intense talks held lately between Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and the Dutch ambassador to Rabat. The meetings culminated in a deal reached at dawn Thursday to extradite Chaaou in order to appear in court.

But if convicted, the former lawmaker would serve his sentence in the Netherlands because he is a Dutch national.

Chaaou, 50, was born in Morocco but moved to the Netherlands in the 1980s.

In a related development, the government convened on Thursday in Rabat under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani to discuss the situation in the Rif region in general.

Othmani urged cabinet ministers to exert efforts in implementing development projects in the region and improve coordination and information-sharing to speed up their implementation in line with the instructions made by Mohammed VI of Morocco.

The prime minister had expressed regret at the events taking place in the city of Al-Hoceima, urging residents for calm and an end to protests by promising them a “solution to all problems.”

During a press conference he held late Wednesday, Othmani said he had given instructions to the interior minister to respect the law while dealing with demonstrators.

Nobody wants to inflict any harm to citizens, he added.

Morocco King Slams Development Delays in Al-Hoceima


London – Morocco King Mohammed VI has expressed his anger and concern over failure to implement a development program in the port area of Al-Hoceima.

In a statement on Sunday, the king voiced his discontent with the slow pace of development projects, which fall within the framework of his “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean” initiative.

The program, which was signed in October 2015, was aimed at launching investments into a region that has seen several protests over unemployment and perceived state neglect.

The Moroccan king instructed the ministers of finance and interior to assign the Territorial Administration and the Inspectorate General of Finance with conducting research and investigation into the failure to execute the program and determining the parties to be held accountable.

King Mohammed chaired on Sunday a cabinet session at the royal palace in Casablanca. It was the first session of its kind since the formation of the government led by Prime Minister Saadeddine al-Othmani in March.

The king also cancelled the annual leave of ministers involved in the program so they could follow up on its progress.

The concerned ministries include the ministry of agriculture and maritime fishing, ministry of national education and vocational training, ministry of health, ministry of youth and sports, ministry of transport, ministry of tourism, ministry of culture, ministry of housing and city policy, ministry of environment and the ministry of water.

The king also stressed the need to avoid the “politicization of social and development projects or their exploitation for narrow political purposes”.

Meanwhile, King Mohammed appointed new ambassadors to 12 different states, including an ambassador to Saudi Arabia and another to the United Nations in Geneva.

The appointment of new ambassadors came in accordance with Article N. 49 of the constitution and by recommendation of the head of government and initiative from the minister of foreign affairs.

Morocco Supports Kuwaiti Mediation to Resolve Gulf Crisis

Morocco King Mohammed VI attends a signing ceremony at the Royal Palace in Marrakech, Morocco, October 22, 2007

Rabat- Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita arrived in Jeddah on Tuesday to deliver a message from King Mohammed VI to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, within efforts to resolve the crisis between Gulf countries and Qatar.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah, received the Moroccan foreign minister at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, as reported Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

The agency added that Bourita delivered a verbal message from King Mohammed VI to the Kuwaiti emir.

“The King expressed his full support to the Emir’s efforts in defusing tension amongst Gulf countries,” he said, as quoted by KUNA.

Bourita arrived in Kuwait following a visit on Monday to Abu Dhabi, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Morocco’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Bourita had delivered a “verbal message” from the Moroccan king to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, without elaborating on the content of the message.

On Sunday, King Mohammed VI urged all parties concerned with the diplomatic Gulf crisis to “exercise restraint” and “show wisdom with a view to easing tensions and resolving the crisis”.

New Moroccan Government of 39 Members, Including 9 Women

Rabat- Morocco’s King Mohammad VI named a new government on Wednesday ending a six-month political deadlock that followed October’s elections.

Prime Minister Saad Eddine al-Othmani, second-in-command of the Justice and Development Party [PJD] that triumphed in the elections, will lead a cabinet formed of members from six political parties: The PJD, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the Popular Movement (MP), and the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), who were present in the previous government, in addition to the Constitutional Union (UC) and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP).

According to MAP state news agency, several key ministerial posts remained unchanged and under the control of the RNI.

The cabinet comprises 39 ministers, nine of whom are women.

RNI Leader Aziz Akhannouch kept his position as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, while RNI members Mohammed Boussaid and Moulay Hafid Elalamy remained as heads of the Ministry of Finance and Economy and Ministry of Trade and Industry, respectively.

Abdelouafi Laftit, former governor of Rabat and opponent of the PJD, was named Minister of Interior. Former Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad was appointed Minister of Education.

The PJD lost its control of the key Ministry of Justice and Public Freedoms, previously led by Mustafa Ramid, who was appointed as Minister of State in charge of human rights.

The PJD has received ten ministerial positions, including state ministry for human rights, ministry of energy and mines, ministry of equipment and transport, ministry of family and social development, ministry of labor and vocational integration, and ministry to the head of government in charge of public affairs and governance, in addition to ministry to the head of government in charge of relations with parliament and civil society, as well as three secretarial posts.

The RNI received seven portfolios, which included, among others, the ministry of justice and freedoms, the ministry of economy and finance and the ministry of agriculture.

Director of ‘Moroccan FBI’: Our Intelligence Saved Countries from Tragic Events


Rabat – Director of the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) Abdelhak Khiame said that security coordination with Algeria is insufficient given the challenges facing the region.

“Moroccan intelligence saved Western, Arab and African countries from tragic events through the information provided,” Khiame told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Khiame, who describes his bureau as “the FBI of Morocco”, declared that his country has intelligence agencies of high professionalism that can rival international bodies.

“Morocco has a pioneering experience in fighting terrorism and extremism,” he added.

Khiame said that the BCIJ is a judicial arm of the General Directorate for Territorial Surveillance and it was established after the professionalism of the directorate came to surface. He also highlighted its role in several fields related to terrorism and crime.

Answering a question on how Morocco acquires accurate information related to terrorist networks in other countries, he replied that that it is constantly updating its intelligence information regarding individuals who are active in terrorist groups.

He added that there is regular coordination with France, because Morocco “rises above political disputes as maintaining security and safety of individuals is a priority.”

Asked about rehabilitating the religious field even though a considerable number of Moroccans have joined terrorist movements, he replied by denying that the number is considerable.

“Morocco is one of the few countries that provides transparent statistics,” he stressed.

Asked to clarify his statements that 180 Moroccan women and their children joined ISIS, Khiame said that they are joining these groups not out of Jihad, but out of faithfulness to their husbands.

“We found out that 59 out of 180 returned home after they discovered the truth or after their husbands were killed in the ongoing battles,” he stated.

“Morocco managed to maintain stability in a region full of conflicts and several terrorist cells were discovered in preliminary operations.”

“Security and stability should be priorities because without security we cannot have tourism and investment. Through our preliminary operations we break down cells before they move to the phase of implementation. This means that we are aware of our security interests and the Moroccan environment is clear of any phenomenon that harms tourism.”

Asked to describe “the level of security readiness in Morocco”, he wondered about the meaning of levels, saying that “there is always security readiness to keep the country safe.”

Moroccan King Appoints Othmani as Prime Minister


Rabat – Morocco’s King Mohammed VI appointed on Friday Saad Eddine El Othmani of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) as the country’s new prime minister and asked him to form a government.

The king announced on Wednesday he would replace Abdelilah Benkirane as prime minister with another member of the PJD in an effort to break a five-month post-election deadlock that left the North African state without a government.

Othmani was foreign minister from 2012-2013 and had most recently served as the head of the PJD’s parliamentary group.

“King Mohammed VI has received in the Royal Palace in Casablanca Saad Eddine Othman and appointed him new Head of Government in conformity with the constitution, and tasked him with forming the new government,” a statement by the ministry of the Royal Household, Protocol and Chancellery announced.

Following the royal reception, Othmani did not give any statement regarding the terms he will negotiate his potential allies based on.

Othmani told reporters when he arrived to Benkirane’s house that discussing the participation of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) or any other party in the government is still very early.

“I am proud of the confidence given to me by the King to appoint me as the prime minister,” he told reporters.

“This is a heavy responsibility in this critical political circumstance,” he said, adding that he will work as hard as he can to meet everyone’s expectations.

During negotiations, the PJD had expressed its intention to form a government based on a coalition of parties, which includes the National Rally of Independents (RNI), Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), and the Popular Movement.

PJD’s relations with a former coalition partner, the conservative Istiqlal party, soured over economic reforms, meaning it had to enter talks with other parties. Some palace loyalists are uncomfortable sharing power with Islamists.

The RNI, under the leadership of current Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and close friend of the king, Aziz Akhannouch, has tried to impose a bloc of four minor parties into the coalition, which would weaken the PJD sway.

Negotiations stalled mostly over the RNI’s insistence on including the USFP, which the PJD has rejected, citing its poor performance in elections.

The PJD is due to host a national council meeting on Saturday to decide its next steps.

Alpha Condé: Foreign Interference behind Africa’s Problems


Conakry (Guinea) – Guinean President Alpha Condé, whose country currently assumes the rotating presidency of the African Union, said problems facing the Dark Continent were mainly due to “foreign interference.”

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Condé said he was fully convinced that Africa and the Arab world need one another, in particular in the field of economic cooperation.

Asked about the African Union’s role in helping Arab and African states overcome current threats and challenges, the Guinean president said: “We have agreed that the AU must seek to resolve all African problems, whether those problems were in Arab countries, in the Sahel or the sub-Sahara.”

He explained that Africans must resolve the crisis in Libya, just like the conflict in Nigeria.

“Our goal is that African themselves seek to resolve all problems facing the continent, and we believe that all of the African continent’s crises are caused by foreign interference,” the president stated.

Condé told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country decided to join the Saudi-led military alliance to fight terrorism based on its belief that terrorist organizations were threatening Islam and the whole world.

“Terrorism threatens us all and it contradicts Islamic teachings,” he said. “Protecting Islam is our duty.”

On the AU relations with the Gulf, the Guinean president said: “We all know that Africa needs the Arab world and the Arab world needs Africa.”

“Arab countries’ economies rely on oil but they have to plan for the post-oil era. We have primary material and fertile land, and Gulf States have financial assets,” he stated.

He noted in this regard that economic partnerships between Africa and the Gulf would create fruitful industries that serve both sides.

While acknowledging the need to put local conflicts behind and move forward towards a fresh strategy to develop the Dark Continent, Condé said the African Union’s founding fathers were aware of the necessity to surpass geographic borders, which were imposed by foreign powers.

He said that African leaders knew that foreign intervention and the “blue helmets” would not be able to resolve the continent’s problems.

“More than 20,000 UN troops are present since decades in different African regions, and nothing has changed so far. On the contrary, there are attacks and explosions everyday – this happens in Darfur, South Sudan, and many other areas,” the president noted.

“We are convinced, more than ever, that only Africans can resolve these problems and conflicts,” he added.

On the consolidation of democracy and reconciliation, the Guinean president affirmed at no country could develop in the absence of national unity. He explained that a country’s national unity should be supported by a “genuine African integration”.

“Except for Nigeria, African markets are small and limited, however, economic prosperity requires larger markets.
That is why we are convinced of the need to establish a regional integration in the first phase, and then we will work to achieve integration on the continental level,” Condé said.

“Such integration will allow us to overcome Africa’s biggest challenge that is poverty,” he added.

On whether the decision to allow Morocco back to the AU has created a rift within the organization, Condé stressed that the decision was taken unanimously and that no country objected the return of the North African state.

He added that he hoped the controversial issue of Western Sahara would be soon resolved.

“As president of Guinea and current president of the African Union, I will do my best to defend African unity and resolve the continent’s problems regardless of their nature, in order to achieve development and prosperity for the African people,” Condé said.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI: It’s So Good to Be Back Home

Moroccan King Mohammed VI

Addis Ababa – “Africa is my continent, and my home,” Moroccan King Mohammed VI said in his speech on Tuesday at the 28th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

“It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long! It is a good day when you can show your affection for your beloved home,” he stated.

The AU on Monday admitted Morocco as its 55th member, through an overwhelming consensus rather than the usual voting process.

The North African country has formally submitted its bid to rejoin the AU last year, when King Mohammed VI set out his government’s aim to put his country “at the center” of the continent’s development.

Morocco withdrew from the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), 32 years ago in protest at the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member state.

“I am home at last and happily reunited with you. I have missed you all,” the king said.

“The massive, outspoken support Morocco has received is proof of the solid bonds that unite us,” he added.

He went on to say that Morocco’s withdrawal from the OAU was “necessary”.

“It has enabled Morocco’s action to be refocused in Africa to show how indispensable Africa is to Morocco and how indispensable Morocco is to Africa,” he stated.

King Mohammed VI also stressed the existing strong bilateral relations between his country and other African countries.

“At a time when the Kingdom is among the most developed African nations and when a majority of Member States looks forward to our return, we have decided to join our family again; a family we did not really leave! In fact, despite having been absent from the AU institutions for so many years, our links, which have never been severed remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us,” he said.

“It is time for Africa to benefit from Africa’s wealth. We must work to enable our land, after decades of looting, to enter an era of prosperity,” he added.

Morocco Rejoins the African Union

Leaders gathered for a group photo at the 28th ordinary session of the assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday. PHOTO: MULUGETA AYENE/ASSOCIATED PRES

Addis Ababa – The African Union (AU) on Monday admitted Morocco as its 55th member, through an overwhelming consensus rather than the usual voting process.

African leaders, who convened in Addis Ababa for the 28th AU ordinary session, decided to debate the question of Morocco’s membership and “reached a consensus,” according to several ministers who participated in the discussion.

The North African country has formally submitted its bid to rejoin the AU last year, when King Mohammed VI set out his government’s aim to put his country “at the center” of the continent’s development.

Morocco withdrew from the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, 32 years ago in protest at the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member state.

Meanwhile, AU members elected Chad’s Moussa Mahamat as the new AU Commission chairman. The former Chadian prime minister will succeed South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who headed the union’s executive and administrative arm since 2012.

The president of Guinea Alpha Conde was elected Chairman of the African Union (AU), replacing the outgoing president of Idris Debbi of Chad to lead the continent for 2017. He won after securing the vote of the West African countries.

“I will work to improve the low representation of Africa in U.N. organizations. And I hope the representation will be improved and help us echo African voices,” he said in a statement after his election.

“Africans can speak in a single voice; Africa is one and indivisible,” he said stressing the need of further boosting the cooperation among member states.