London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri has reiterated his country’s absolute solidarity with Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and its condemnation of every attempt aimed at harming its safety and peace regardless of the motives or those who incite and stand behind it.
Speaking in an interview conducted with him during his presence in London to participate in the conference on investment in Morocco which was organized the day before yesterday in the money and business quarter, Fihri said the region is very sensitive and the security and stability of the Gulf is a priority for Morocco, particularly whatever concerns the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s security and stability.
On the other hand, the head of Moroccan diplomacy denied receiving a demand from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her presence in Marrakech to normalize relations with Israel and open diplomatic representations in the two countries’ capitals. He said normalization and diplomatic exchange with Israel are not on the table under the current conditions and pointed out that Morocco is involved with the Arab peace initiative and therefore can only encourage the parties to press ahead with the peace process. Regarding relations between his country and Algeria, Fassi Fihri said: “Regrettably, Moroccan-Algerian relations have not seen, so far, any progress. Morocco regrets this situation in view of the aspirations of the region’s five peoples and the Moroccan and Algerian peoples’ aspirations for joint action and the extent of its importance.” He added: “We have not received so far any sign from the brothers in Algeria about engaging in a process of normalization, process of communications, or any purely bilateral processes or any sign about opening the land borders between the two countries.” As to the Moroccan initiative for the region that involves granting Western Sahara broader self-rule, he said “it still exists and we are ready to negotiate about it.” He went on to say: “We would have reached the political solution required by the international community had the other party had the political will, that is, a consensual and negotiated solution, a solution that requires all parties to act in the spirit of pragmatism and accord as the Security Council’s recent solutions said.”
Following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are several developments in the Middle East. There is stagnation in the peace process and there is the threat of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmud Abbas not to stand again for the presidency. Morocco recently declared its unconditional support for Abbas. What role can Rabat play to give impetus to the peace process and keep Abbas at the head of the Palestinian leadership?
[Fihri] First of all, Morocco is demanding negotiations based on sound and clearly defined bases so as to reach the final status solution. This means that the negotiations should be embarked on according to specific criteria, that is, the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and which is naturally viable at all levels, geographically contiguous between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and with Holy Jerusalem its capital. By the way, everyone agrees on this.
There is now a retreat by the present Israeli Government. We in Morocco are not demanding from brother Abu-Mazin to embark on negotiations in an environment shrouded in ambiguity or reach a transitional interim solution of establishing a state without borders, a state depending on Israel for its livelihood and where it is difficult for the Palestinian brothers to move. The launch of negotiations based on sound and clearly defined bases is possible. This is what we heard from the new US administration and what the EU is working for. Morocco’s role in this context is firstly to remind of the principles and the roadmap and also the importance of the Arab initiative which has become today the initiative of all Muslim countries after its adoption by the Organization of Islamic Conference.
On the other hand, we are following up the efforts aimed at achieving Palestinian reconciliation and back the Egyptian efforts in this.
The region cannot remain in this situation and this is what we sensed from Secretary Clinton last week in Marrakech. Her talks with some colleagues the foreign ministers of fraternal Arab countries showed there is a conviction of this approach that is based on holding negotiations about the final status which lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and not something else that is vague which might lead to more difficulties that complicate the situation further.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] It was noted that Secretary Clinton backtracked in Marrakech on her support for Israel’s proposal for stopping the settlement activities during her visit to Tel Aviv. She changed her tone. In your opinion, was this conviction the reason for backing down or was it just a stance dictated by circumstances?
[Fihri] Secretary Clinton recalled in Marrakech President Obama’s speeches and said the settlements were illegal and that Jerusalem could not be exempted from this. This remainder came at the right place, that is, in an Arab territory, that of Morocco. She proved that some of her previous statements were probably understood the wrong way. But the quality of the dialogue with Secretary Clinton and the broadening of the dialogue with other Arab countries helped clarify the image. We are also working at this at my meeting with my British colleague David Miliband. He shares with us the same approach, that is, how can we launch in the coming weeks the negotiations on the bases I mentioned before.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you receive again from Secretary Clinton during her presence in Marrakech a demand to normalize relations with Israel and open diplomatic representations in the two countries’ capitals?
[Fihri] No, definitely no. Morocco is involved with the Arab peace initiative and therefore can only encourage the parties to press ahead with the peace process. The issue (of normalization and diplomatic exchange) is not on the table, particularly under the current conditions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Morocco declared its solidarity with Saudi Arabia after its territories were attacked by the Huthists. What is your interpretation of this situation?
[Fihri] Morocco can only express at the highest level, that is, His Majesty King Mohammad VI and with him the Moroccan people, its absolute solidarity with the Saudi territorial integrity and its condemnation of every attempt aimed at harming its safety and peace regardless of the motives or those who incite and stand behind it. At the same time, I would like to remind that Morocco had already expressed its solidarity with the brothers in Yemen. The region is very sensitive and the security and stability of the Gulf is apriority for Morocco, particularly whatever concerns the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s security and stability.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The launch of a new round of negotiations about the Sahara conflict is awaited. Is there anything new about it?
[Fihri] The recent royal speech marking the anniversary of the green march was clear. First, the Moroccan mechanism which established the negotiations dynamism still exists and we are ready to negotiate about it. We would have reached the political solution required by the international community had the other party had the political will, that is, a consensual and negotiated solution, a solution that requires all parties to act in the spirit of pragmatism and accord as the Security Council’s recent solutions said. But, regrettably, we have not felt this will from the other parties. Second, the recent royal speech was clear about what we will be doing within a Maghreb-Maghreb context as we wait for the final solution at the international level for this artificial regional dispute. In this context, there is a six-point plan covering the economic, political, and social levels in the southern provinces that are very dear to every Moroccan. Therefore regarding the negotiations, we are ready and waiting for a signal from the UN envoy to the region. I would like to stress that we are still ready to negotiate but we notice that the other parties resorted to some maneuvering and some practices that are known to all after the Moroccan initiative was presented. Their aim is to destroy the Moroccan effort by talking about the Moroccan state’s exploitation of natural resources in the south and by talking about human rights violations even though Morocco is not in need for any lessons from anyone in this. As to the persons who are dealing with the other parties 100percent to serve their interests, their dealing is unreasonable and the Moroccan law and people cannot accept it.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion of POLISARIO’s conditions when it recently announced it would not resume the negotiations if Rabat did not release the persons it talked about?
[Fihri] I said there are maneuvers and POLISARIO’s recent announcement comes under them. The negotiations are wanted by the international community and the responsibility for negotiations cannot be avoided. We cannot even discuss a precondition like this. We know that the other parties did a lot to exploit these persons in this issue. Generally speaking, Moroccan justice will have its say and announce its stand on the treason of these persons when they sat with the other parties to serve their interests and in a military context that harms Morocco’s higher interests, including the security ones. We are not therefore violating human rights, as they are saying, by violating the freedom of movement and expression. We should not forget that there is a financed and known strategic operation behind this raising of the human rights card. We hope this will not affect the negotiations.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In view of the developments, how are relations with Algeria now? Are there direct contacts and bilateral discussion of the contentious issues?
[Fihri] Regrettably, Moroccan-Algerian relations have not seen, so far, any progress. Morocco regrets this situation in view of the aspirations of the region’s five peoples and the Moroccan and Algerian peoples’ aspirations for joint action and the extent of its importance. But, regrettably, we have not received so far any sign from the brothers in Algeria about engaging in a process of normalization, process of communications, or any purely bilateral processes or any sign about opening the land borders between the two countries. On the contrary and as I said before, they preferred to resort to maneuvers and adopted negative stands that prevent pressing ahead to find a final solution for the fabricated conflict.