France’s Azoulay Wins UNESCO Director General’s Post


Paris – UNESCO’s executive board voted Friday to make a former French culture minister the UN cultural agency’s next chief for the four coming years after an unusually heated election.

UNESCO’s executive board voted 30 to 28 in favor of Audrey Azoulay against Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari.

The board’s selection of Azoulay over a Qatari candidate came the day after the United States announced that it intends to pull out of UNESCO because of its alleged anti-Israel bias.

Azoulay’s nomination was based on the request of former French President Francois Hollande, yet she received great support from President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

For this purpose, a diplomatic cell was set up to monitor the elections and provide the necessary votes to the former minister of culture, who previously worked as cultural adviser to Hollande at the Elysee Palace.

The Arab candidates dropped out of the race one after the other. The first was the Iraqi candidate, followed by Lebanon’s and finally Egypt’s, who left after losing against Azoulay in an extraordinary runoff on Friday.

Moushira Khattab of Egypt managed to secure 25 votes to Azoulay’s 31. Egypt immediately expressed its support for the French candidate.

Macron congratulated Azoulay on his twitter account, adding that France will continue to fight for education and culture in the world.

Azoulay, who is UNESCO’s 11th director, was born in Paris into a Moroccan-Jewish family.

Her father is Andre Azoulay, a banker and adviser to the Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, also served his father, the late King Hassan II. Her mother is writer Katia Brami.

Confronted with Arab divisions, France presented Azoulay as a consensus figure, who could mend fences within the organization and soothe tensions caused by recent resolutions against Israel.

“Now more than ever UNESCO needs a project… which restores confidence and overcomes political divisions,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement reacting to the US pullout.

According to diplomatic sources in Paris, Morocco supported the French candidate from the beginning and campaigned for her, especially among African countries close to it.

Morocco, Russia Promote Cooperation with Signing of 11 Agreements

Morocco’s Prime Minister Saadeddine al-Othmani (R) meets his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev in Rabat on October 11, 2017

Rabat- Morocco and Russia boosted bilateral cooperation on Wednesday with the signing of 11 agreements in energy, agriculture, culture, education, investment and trade sectors, following talks between Prime Minister Saadeddine al-Othmani and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev is on an official visit to Morocco, along with a number of members of the Russian government, businessmen and senior officials.

“The visit of the Russian prime minister to Morocco falls within a clear will for cooperation, which was initiated by King Mohammed VI’s historic visit to Moscow in March 2016,” Othmani said during the signing ceremony of the partnership agreements.

Othmani explained that trade exchange with Russia has developed since the signing of the trade and economic agreement, which helped increase the volume of trade from around $200 million in 2001 to $2.5 billion in 2015.

In 2013, a new phase was launched between the two countries after the signing of a cooperation agreement in the fishing sector, the Moroccan prime minister noted.

“Economic cooperation between the two countries remains satisfactory, and trade is on an upward path, but there is still work to be done to achieve a more balanced trade relationship between the two countries,” he stated.

Othmani also expressed his country’s readiness to “establish an expanded tripartite partnership between our countries on the one hand, and Africa on the other, engaging the public and private sectors in order to carry out important projects, in favor of the three parties.”

For his part, Medvedev expressed his country’s determination to develop a partnership with Morocco, particularly in the fields of energy, agriculture and tourism, as well as to enhance military and security cooperation.

The Russian official underlined the importance of continuing to supply the Moroccan market with its needs of grains in exchange for the import of fruits and Moroccan vegetables.

Medvedev pointed to the importance of expanding cooperation in the fields of energy technology and tourism, noting that the number of Russian citizens visiting Morocco was on the rise.

Meetings between Russian and Moroccan officials on Wednesday witnessed the signing of 11 bilateral agreements in various fields of cooperation.

Fiat Signs Agreement with Morocco to Establish Automotive Production Plant

Rabat- Morocco continues its dynamism in attracting foreign investments and convincing them of establishing their own units in the country as Magneti Marelli, a subsidiary of the Italian investment group in this field ‘Fiat,’ and Morocco have signed an agreement building an automotive production plant.

The agreement was signed from the Moroccan side by Minister of Industry, investment, Trade and the Digital Economy Moulay Hafid Elallamy and Minister of Economics and Finance Mohamed Boussaid and on behalf of Magneti Marelli its CEO Pietro Gorlier.

It includes the installation of a manufacturing facility specialized in automotive components production, which will deliver shock absorbers in the first phase.

The industrial zone will be located in Tangier, in the free zone “Tanger Automotive City”, and it will cover an area of approximately 20,000 square meters, with the possibility of subsequent expansion.

The production capacity, when fully operational, will be approximately six million pieces, and the production is forecast to begin within 2019, with the progressive employment of approximately 500 workers by 2025.

The project will require a global investment of about 37 million euros and will benefit from the support of the Moroccan State as provided by its automotive industry policy.

The activity will initially focus on the production of shock absorbers for cars and commercial vehicles, with the possible extension of the scope to other products.

For Magneti Marelli, the localization of production in Morocco follows the logic of supporting locally the industrial sites and the business expansion of a number of important automotive clients in the North African region and marks the opening of a new market in the Maghreb area.

“We are delighted to be partners with the Moroccan State in one of the strategic objectives of the country, the development of the automotive industry,” said Gorlier.

For Magneti Marelli, “the creation of an industrial site in Morocco represents an opportunity to further expand its business, responding to the demands and needs of a number of key clients that are making important investments in the area.”

For his part, Elalamy, who welcomes this new facility installation, highlighted that “the Magneti Marelli project feeds the manufacturing and sourcing ecosystems in the context of the Industrial Accelerated Plan.

‘With this new project, a new craft is being developed in Morocco, the value chain is getting more complex and the sector is gaining from a successful integration,” Elalamy said.

The Magneti Marelli activity will benefit also to the network of the local suppliers to whom the Tangier factory will be getting its supply.

Spanish Police Arrest Moroccan Man over Catalonia Attacks

Madrid- Spanish police have arrested a Moroccan man suspected of cooperating with a cell behind bloody attacks in Catalonia in August, the interior ministry said Friday.

The 24-year-old man, who was detained in the eastern town of Castellon, was close to several members of the group, especially Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is believed to have radicalised the youths that carried out the attacks, it said in a statement.

He is believed to have helped the cell obtain the ingredients they used to make over 100 kilos of the explosive TATP and provided them with vehicles to transport it.

“Various members of the cell counted on the help of the suspect, who at the very least, provided his personal identification documents which they used to buy hydrogen peroxide, a key ingredient to make TATP,” it said.

“In addition, he provided the terrorists with methods of transportation used to move part of the explosives.”

In last month’s attack, militants killed 16 people using vehicles and knives in a two-pronged attack in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils, with the bloodshed claimed by ISIS.

Police shot dead six of the suspected members of the cell that carried out the attacks and arrested another four. 

Two other suspects — including Es Satty — died in an explosion at a house used by the plotters at Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, on August 16 on the eve of the Barcelona attack.

Police believe the explosion at the house prompted the surviving members of the cell to bring forward their attack plans, resulting in the vehicle rampages in Barcelona and Cambrils.

Spanish police have arrested 201 people they claim are associated with militants since raising the alert level
to 4, the second highest, in June 2015.

Moroccan Government to Present 4 Months Record

Rabat – The head of the Moroccan government, Saadeddine el-Othmani, will hold a conference on Monday in Rabat to brief the public opinion on the outcome of the government’s work over the past months. The meeting was initially scheduled to be held 100 days after government’s formation in April.

On Thursday, the government announced that it was ready for accountability, noting that representatives of the major parties forming the government coalition, as well as public figures from business and civil society will attend the conference.

Mustafa al-Khalfi, the minister in charge of relations with parliament and civil society, said that the government would provide a report on four months of its work, instead 100 days, and would detail emergency measures promised in its program.

Speaking during a news conference following a Cabinet meeting, al-Khalfi said Monday’s meeting was a “first step in the political process aimed at establishing a culture of accountability.”

The Moroccan minister listed a number of achievements he described as positive, including the award of scholarships for vocational training students, the reduction of the price of 135 medicines, the adoption of the largest recruitment process to solve the problem of overcrowding in schools, the establishment of the National Investment Commission, the adoption of the National Employment Plan, and the formation of a committee to monitor the implementation of the anti-corruption strategy.

On a different note, Othmani underlined the necessity to promote education as an important pillar in the country’s progress.

“Education is the key to development and progress and the door to the era,” the Moroccan prime minister said in remarks on Thursday.

A report issued by the Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research in March acknowledged that Moroccan education was in danger, because of the low level of understanding among students, especially in scientific subjects and languages.

This was due to the accumulation of imbalances in this sector for several years, according to the council.

Moroccan-Spanish Cooperation Dismantles Six-Member Terrorist Cell

Rabath- Morocco and Spain announced on Wednesday the dismantling of a new terrorist cell consisting of six people who were planning to carry out major attacks in the two countries and training their members to slaughter.

The operation came just a week after Spain’s Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido met with his Moroccan counterpart Abdoulwafi Laftit in Rabat and following meetings of senior security officials in the two countries in the wake of deadly attacks in Spain last month.

The arrests were also made nearly three weeks after a group of four Moroccans killed 16 people in two deadly attacks using a truck and knives in Barcelona and another seaside resort in northeastern Spain.

A statement issued by the Moroccan Interior Ministry on Wednesday said that the Moroccan Central Bureau for Judicial Research of the General Directorate for the Control of the National Territory (Internal Intelligence) managed to dismantle a terrorist cell consisting of five people loyal to ISIS.

The statement added that the cell members were arrested in the area of Beni Shaker in the outskirts of the city of Nador (north of the country), while the Spanish authorities arrested a sixth member, a Spanish of Moroccan origin residing in the city of Melilla.

The ministry stressed that the operation was the fruit of security cooperation between the Moroccan security services and Spanish authorities.

The Spanish Interior Ministry said in a statement: “An investigation by the Moroccan security services found evidence that this group was planning large-scale terror attacks, holding discreet nighttime meetings during which they carried out physical training and simulated murder by decapitation.”

Police in Spain said the leader of the cell was a 39-year-old Spaniard of Moroccan origin living in Melilla. He was arrested by the security forces while visiting Morocco.

“He used his position as an assistant teacher in a center for reeducating minors to carry out recruitment activities and to radicalize young people in a vulnerable situation,” the ministry said.

Rabat, Madrid Seek Increasing Security Cooperation Following Barcelona Attack


Rabat- Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit highlighted that the Moroccan-Spanish security partnership is based on “shared responsibility and mutual trust.”

In a statement during a joint press conference in Rabat with his Spanish counterpart Juan Ignacio Zoido, Laftit underscored the solid cooperation between the two countries in security issues.

He pointed out the legal framework governing this cooperation with the signing of multiple agreements laying down mechanisms for joint action and sustained coordination.

“Such cooperation enabled the dismantling of terrorist cells operating in the two countries,” he said, adding that joint sea patrols are conducted between the navies of the two countries to fight drug trafficking.

Laftit also explained that he had “candid and serious” talks with the Spanish minister focusing on the threats posed by terrorism, illegal migration and organized crime.

He added that Zoido’s visit to Rabat is part of regular consultations between Morocco and Spain on issues of common interest.

Laftit, who reiterated Morocco’s condolences on the terrorists attacks that hit Barcelona lately, reaffirmed that a Moroccan team of security experts is contributing to investigations in Spain.

On the surge of radicalization among Moroccan immigrants, he noted that the second and third generation of Moroccans living in Europe need special attention to insulate them from extremist ideologies leading to terrorism.

In this context, he pointed to the need to oversee religious discourse in mosques and be wary of extremist imams.

For his part, Zoido said that no country is insulated from the threat of terrorism, and he stressed the need for international cooperation to counter this global threat.

In this regards, he commended Morocco for its “permanent, sincere and fruitful” cooperation with Spain.

“Morocco is a key partner for Spain in the fight against terrorism,” insisted Zoido, who pointed out to the need to gear efforts towards prevention and deradicalization.

He also underscored the pressing need of reinforcing the exchange of information between the two countries to counter terrorism and trans-border crime.

He added that between 2014 and 2017, Spanish and Moroccan security services led 12 joint operations, with the latest operation dating back to May where three ISIS terrorists were arrested, two in Barcelona and Salou and the third in Tangier.

“Thanks to the Spanish-Moroccan close security cooperation, 175 people suspected of violent extremism have been arrested during these operations,” he said.

Arrests in Morocco over Links to Barcelona Attackers

Casablanca- Moroccan authorities have arrested two people suspected of links to the alleged perpetrators of the terrorist attack in the Spanish city of Barcelona as police in Morocco and Spain continued to coordinate in the probe into the assault that shook the country last week.

The two suspects have been detained in the cities of Nador and Oujda in northeastern Morocco, amid reports that police are searching for a third suspect in Casablanca.

The man detained in the city of Nador is a 28-year-old with suspected ties to one of the members of
the cell of young Moroccans behind the Barcelona attack.

He was a resident of Ripoll, the small town in northeastern Spain where many members of the cell were living.

The second detainee, 34, lived for 12 years in Barcelona and is suspected of links to ISIS and of plotting to attack the Spanish embassy in Rabat.

Both suspects were arrested on Sunday.

On Monday Spanish police shot dead 22-year-old Moroccan Younes Abouyaaqoub, whom they had identified as the driver of the van that ploughed through crowds on Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona last Thursday, killing 13 people and injuring 120.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the van attack and a separate deadly assault, hours later, in the coastal resort of Cambrils, south of Barcelona.

Moroccan security forces have gone on alert since the attacks in Spain and Finland this month after Moroccan immigrants were involved in both assaults.

King Salman Returns to Jeddah from Morocco

Jeddah- Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday evening, returning from the Moroccan city of Tangier.

King Salman returned to Jeddah after having enjoyed a private visit in Morocco.

Upon arrival at King Abdulaziz international airport, the monarch was greeted by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah Region; Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Jeddah Province; Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense; Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior; and Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Governor of Makkah Region, reported the Saudi state news agency.
Ministers and senior civil and military officials were also at the reception.

The monarch was accompanied by Prince Khalid bin Fahd bin Khalid; Prince Talal bin Saud bin Abdulaziz; Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed; Prince Turki bin Salman bin Abdulaziz; Prince Naif bin Salman bin Abdulaziz; and senior protocol officials.

The King left Tangier earlier today.

He was seen off at Ibn Batota airport by Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Al-Deen Al-Othmani; Governor of Tangier Tutwan Mohammed Yaaqoobi; Acting commander of the military Garrison of Tangier Mohammed Al-Murabet and a number of Moroccan officials.

King Salman was also seen off by Prince Mansour bin Saud bin Abdulaziz; Prince Sattam bin Saud bin Abdulaziz; Prince Dr. Hussam bin Saud bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Al-Baha Region; Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz; Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Governor of the Eastern Region; Prince Rakan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz; Prince Fahd bin Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz; Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Minister of State and Member of the Cabinet; Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja, Saudi ambassador to Morocco; Brig. Nabil Al-Ayed, military attaché and the Saudi embassy staff members.

2 Arrested in Morocco over Barcelona Attack as Suspects’ Trial Kicks off


Two people were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of being linked to last week’s deadly van-ramming attack in the Spanish city of Barcelona, said Moroccan state TV channel 2M on Tuesday.

One of the men, a 28-year-old detained in the Nador, close to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, lived for 12 years in Barcelona and is suspected of links to ISIS and of plotting to attack the Spanish embassy in Rabat, the channel reported. It gave no details of the alleged plot.

No direct link has been identified between the suspect and the cell of mainly young Moroccans behind the Barcelona attack, but he had celebrated the attack on Facebook, the report said.

A second suspect was arrested in the town of Oujda, close to Morocco’s border with Algeria, 2M reported. He was a resident of Ripoll, the small town in northeastern Spain where many members of the cell were living.

The militant cell behind the van-ramming that killed 13 people in Barcelona had planned one or several major bomb attacks, possibly against churches or monuments, one suspect told a court on Tuesday, according to sources close to the investigation.

After a day-long hearing of four suspects in the plot, Judge Fernando Andreu late on Tuesday ordered Mohammed Houli Chemlal and a second defendant, Driss Oukabir, remanded on charges of membership of a terrorist group and murder. Chemlal was also charged with explosives possession.

A third suspect, Salh El Karib, who ran an internet cafe in a northeastern Spanish town where most of the alleged members of the cell lived, will remain in police custody for now pending further investigation. The fourth man, Mohamed Aalla, was released on certain conditions.

Chemlal was the only one of the four suspects who admitted a role in the plot, the sources said. The other three all denied involvement.

Police said the cleric suspected of leading the militant cell, Abdelbaki Es Satty, died a day before the Barcelona attack when a house the group was using to build bombs blew up.

According to Judge Andreu’s court order, in the ruins of the house in Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, police found several plane tickets to Brussels in Es Satty’s name issued by the Spanish airline Vueling.

The air tickets will raise questions about possible links of the group to Belgium, where a number of militant plots have been hatched or carried out.

Investigators also found receipts for purchases made by the group, including 500 liters of acetone and other materials which can be used to make explosives, bought at the beginning of August, the court document showed.

Last Thursday at 9:26 p.m. local time (1926 GMT), a few hours after the Barcelona van attack, they bought four knives and an ax that were used in the Cambrils attack, it said.

Chemlal told the court in the closed hearing that the group had obtained materials for making explosives in Spain, abroad and via the internet, the sources said.

Chemlal, who told the court he regretted his part in the plot, said Es Satty, the imam in Ripoll, the small town in northeastern Spain where many of the group came from, led the cell, according to the sources.

The group had planned to commit “one or several” attacks with explosives, Chemlal said. He said there was no “clear or certain target” but he referred to attacks against churches and monuments, the sources said.

The cell was making explosives and planned to use butane gas canisters to make a more powerful bomb, guided by tutorials found on the internet, Chemlal said.

The plan went wrong when an explosion wrecked the house where the plotters were making the bombs a day before the Barcelona attack, killing the cleric and another man and leading the survivors to hurriedly change tactics.

Tuesday’s hearing was the first in a long legal process, and it could be months or even years before the case is brought to a full trial.