Rabat, Asharq Al-Awsat—A recent diplomatic spat between Morocco and Algeria over the disputed Sahara territory was reignited on Thursday after Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar gave a strong speech during a parliamentary session in which he made reference to “calculated plans” against Morocco’s territorial unity.
Mezouar was speaking before the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee of Morocco’s House of Representatives. The minister had been scheduled to present the ministry’s budget to parliament, but was derailed by the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Algiers and Rabat.
Last month, Morocco recalled its ambassador to Algiers following remarks made by Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika over the Sahara region. Bouteflika had called for human rights monitoring in the Sahara, which Morocco assumed control of in 1975. Rabat responded by accusing Algiers of exploiting human rights issues to further its own regional interests.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mezouar denied media reports of mediation efforts by the United Arab Emirates to ease the ongoing tensions between Rabat and Algiers. The Moroccan foreign minister said he was aware of no such mediation efforts to resolve the continuing diplomatic crisis.
Referring to foreign threats to Morocco, Mezouar told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country’s opponents “reserve significant sums of money to bring Morocco to its knees, but nobody has ever succeeded in this throughout history.”
He added that Morocco’s “enemies,” a tacit reference to Algeria, sought to take preemptive actions in different international forums to influence the path of the Sahara issue.
Mezouar dismissed Algeria’s repeated claims that it has nothing to do with the Sahara issue and that the issue was being dealt with by the UN, affirming that both the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his personal envoy for Sahara, Christopher Ross, have acknowledged that Algeria is playing a role in this conflict.
The Moroccan foreign minister also cited President Bouteflika’s recent comments about the Sahara as proof of Algeria’s direct involvement in the crisis.
“Solutions emerge from crises, and Morocco is not afraid because its credibility makes it strong,” he said.
Mezouar added that “neighbors,” an implicit reference to Algeria, were “shaken” by Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s visit to Mali on the occasion of the inauguration of Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: Our relations with African countries are not based on pressure, and we do not purchase this [our good relations with other countries]. Rather, our relations are based on common interests and seek to promote stability and development and to support the people of these countries.”
The Moroccan foreign minister also affirmed that Rabat will seek to exert strong efforts to overcome limitations in the country’s diplomatic activities. He acknowledged that these diplomatic limitations include relations with the European Union, because “the Advanced Status that Morocco was granted is not advanced.”
Mezouar confirmed that he would seek a follow up of the implementation of agreements with the EU, in addition to developing stronger ties with Eastern European states, which are becoming increasingly influential within the EU.
Mezouar also confirmed that efforts are underway to promote cooperation between Morocco and the Gulf Cooperation Council to promote political, strategic, economic and social cooperation.