Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—King Mohammed VI of Morocco’s state visit to Tunisia last weekend came as part of his efforts to renew the Arab Maghreb Union and strengthen ties with Tunisia, said Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, dismissing rumors that the trip came in response to Algerian–Tunisian rapprochement.
In a wide-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Mezouar said suggestions that the King’s visit was linked to Algerian–Tunisian relations “fall into the category of myths nobody believes,” and that King Mohammed VI’s visit came “in response to an invitation from Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, and was scheduled.”
The Moroccan monarch arrived in Tunisia on May 30 on a three-day visit, his first to Tunisia since the 2011 revolution that ousted former president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
In a speech to the Tunisian Constituent Assembly on May 31, King Mohammed decried the stalled Maghreb Union project, saying it “jeopardizes the future of our region.” He also called on the five Treaty of Marrakech signatory states to “today, more than ever, show sincere desire to overcome obstacles and artificial barriers that hinder the effective launch of our Union,” twenty-five years after the treaty was ratified.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat about the Maghreb Union project, Mezouar said: “We are in a region which needs strong partnerships and the building of relations of trust and cooperation, and the removal of the challenges to security and stability.”
He added that the 23 cooperation agreements signed between Morocco and Tunisia during the King’s visit were “a strong indication of Rabat’s confidence in Tunisia and its institutions’ endurance and ability to develop” following the 2011 revolution and the subsequent political crises.
The Moroccan foreign minister characterized the cooperation agreements with Tunisia as one step towards a renewed partnership and a model for the rejuvenation of the Maghreb Union project.
Speaking of the domestic situation in Libya, one of the signatories to the Marrakech treaty, and reported attempts by both Tunisia and Morocco to mediate in Libya’s deepening political crisis, he said: “There is joint coordination. An initiative has been put forward, and there has been an agreement that Tunisia, based on its proximity to Libya, will be the means to allow this to evolve.”
“The situation in Libya is facing a number of difficulties, not least the presence of two governments and a lack of stability,” he added.
He further said that it was the joint responsibility of all states neighboring Libya to assist the country in rebuilding its institutions, and that the fact Libya currently has two governments was one of the reasons a meeting of Magrebi foreign ministers scheduled for June 1 in Tunis had been postponed.