French Foreign Minister Stéphane Sejourne arrives in Rabat to deepen diplomatic ties between France and Morocco

France and Morocco continue to move closer together

El ministro francés de Europa y Asuntos Exteriores, Stéphane Sejourne – PHOTO/JUAN MABROMATA/AFP
French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Stéphane Sejourne - PHOTO/JUAN MABROMATA/AFP

Morocco and France continue to seek to strengthen diplomatic relations between the two countries. Recent gestures have been very significant. 

  1. Calls for greater support over Western Sahara
  2. Visit to Morocco by the French Foreign Minister

From the reception given by the French President's wife, Brigitte Macron, to the Moroccan princesses Lalla Meryem, Lalla Asmae and Lalla Hasnaa, to the declarations of the French Ambassador in Rabat, Christophe Lecourtier, on Western Sahara, and the visit of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Rabat capital, one can appreciate the moves towards rapprochement and closeness between two strategic allies that have not been at their best lately in terms of diplomatic ties. 

Las princesas Lalla Meryem, Lalla Asmae y Lalla Hasnaa fueron recibidas por Brigitte Macron en Francia
Princesses Lalla Meryem, Lalla Asmae and Lalla Hasnaa were received by Brigitte Macron in France

Calls for greater support over Western Sahara

Morocco continues to demand France's clear and unequivocal support for its proposal for Western Sahara, which involves broad autonomy for the Sahrawi territory under Moroccan sovereignty, in accordance with UN resolutions. A formula that aims to develop the region to the maximum, granting it a large measure of self-government, while leaving foreign policy and security in the hands of the Moroccan state. 

Several important nations such as the United States, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Spain have given their approval to Morocco's initiative for Western Sahara, which they consider the most serious, credible and realistic way of resolving the Sahrawi dispute. All this in the face of the Polisario Front's opposing proposal, which calls for a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi population, which has less international backing and is difficult to implement due to issues such as the electoral roll, as various experts have pointed out. 

The Polisario Front enjoys the most prominent support from Algeria, Morocco's great political rival in the Maghreb, but receives little further backing. 

Relations between Morocco and France have been strained in recent times by the main disagreement over the Western Sahara issue, an issue of great importance because it affects the North African country's territorial integrity. But recent diplomatic moves by French President Emmanuel Macron's wife and French Ambassador Christophe Lecourtier have brought the two sides closer together.

Puesto de control fronterizo entre Marruecos y Mauritania en Guerguerat, ubicado en el Sáhara Occidental - AFP/FADEL SENNA
Border checkpoint between Morocco and Mauritania at Guerguerat, located in Western Sahara - AFP/FADEL SENNA

Visit to Morocco by the French Foreign Minister

Now comes the visit of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Sejourne, on his first official visit to Morocco since he took office on 12 January. The visit, scheduled for 25 February, includes a meeting with the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, in an important step towards bringing the two countries closer together. 

According to the media outlet Africa Intelligence, the meeting is expected to lay the groundwork for a possible visit to Morocco by French President Emmanuel Macron, scheduled before the summer. 

In addition, the president of the French Senate, Gérard Larcher, is also scheduled to visit Morocco. 

Sejourne has already made clear his commitment to strengthening ties between Paris and Rabat. The French diplomat stressed the "essential" nature of France's relationship with Morocco and expressed his determination to rebuild trust between the two nations.

El embajador francés en Rabat, Christophe Lecourtier, en un evento sobre las relaciones franco-marroquíes, organizada en la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas, Económicas y Sociales - PHOTO/FILE
The French ambassador in Rabat, Christophe Lecourtier, at an event on Franco-Moroccan relations, organized at the Faculty of Legal, Economic and Social Sciences - PHOTO/FILE

"I will gradually build this trust. It is in the interest of both France and Morocco," Sejourne said last week during an audience at the French National Assembly.

Speaking to the French daily Ouest-France, Sejourne expressed his "personal" dedication to improving relations between the two countries, saying he had already initiated several contacts with Moroccan officials since taking office.

"The President of the Republic personally asked me to invest in the Franco-Moroccan relationship and also to write a new chapter in our relationship. I am going to go ahead," said the French minister.

This was along the same lines as Ambassador Christophe Lecourtier, who referred to the Western Sahara issue in a university lecture. The French ambassador in Rabat pointed out that "it would be completely illusory and disrespectful to believe that we will build what I hope we can build, brick after brick, to reassure our countries and some other neighbours, without clarifying this issue, knowing that everyone in Paris knows and understands the fundamental nature of the Kingdom, yesterday, today and tomorrow". Lecourtier himself urged the French government to clarify its position with Morocco on Western Sahara.

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