Addis Ababa – African Union leaders gathering in Ethiopia to attend the 28th AU Summit will have their say Monday on Morocco’s reentry to the continental bloc.
Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Morocco’s King Mohammed VI met on Sunday with 44 African heads of state, as well as with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a reception hosted by the king at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa.
The Moroccan sources added that outgoing African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was present at the reception, in addition to more than 40 heads of African states.
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 recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member state.
Ahead of the reception, the Moroccan king held a series of bilateral talks with African leaders, to discuss his country’s reentry to the Union, as well as means to promote mutual relations.
In a last-minute development, the Summit agenda has been amended, as it has decided to discuss Morocco’s reentry to the Union on Monday afternoon, when Zuma will hand over the Summit presidency to the President of the Republic of Guinea Alpha Condé.
Sources said that the new president would abide by the AU by-laws, by holding a direct vote on Morocco’s return to the Union.
In an official statement, the AUC said that Zuma received on Thursday a delegation from the Kingdom of Morocco, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salaheddine Mezouar.
The statement added that discussions focused on the status of Morocco’s request to “accede to the Constitutive Act and join the African Union”.
“The Chairperson informed the Minister that the request has been put on the agenda of the Summit of Heads of State and Government, upon receiving the requisite minimum from AU Member States,” it noted, adding that the decision would be officially communicated to Morocco, after the Summit meeting scheduled for 30-31 January 2017.