France and Morocco continue to strengthen mutual cooperation

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has visited Morocco to meet his Moroccan counterpart Abdelaouafi Laftit to discuss security issues 
Gérald Darmanin y Abdelaoafi Laftit - PHOTO/FADEL SENNA/AFP
Gérald Darmanin and Abdelaoafi Laftit - PHOTO/FADEL SENNA/AFP
  1. Support for Moroccan proposal for Western Sahara

The French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, has visited Morocco to strengthen cooperation ties with the Moroccan kingdom in the fight against the scourge of terrorism and to provide advice on security matters ahead of the upcoming and very important 2024 Paris Olympic Games.  

Gérald Darmanin confirmed the interest in strengthening security cooperation with Morocco to fight terrorism and secure the Paris Olympics, during a visit to Rabat in the context of the re-establishment of relations between the two countries.

"I want to thank Morocco, which will help us greatly in the major sporting events we are going to organise, in particular the Olympic Games this summer," Darmanin said after the meeting with his counterpart Abdelouafi Laftit, noting also the security cooperation for next year's Africa Cup of Nations football tournament in Morocco, as reported by France Presse. 

"Without Moroccan intelligence services, France would be more exposed to terrorism, especially in the run-up to the Olympic Games," he said.  

Meanwhile, the Moroccan Interior Ministry said in a statement that the two ministers "agreed to reinforce the channels of exchange of experience and information to better anticipate the multiple risks, in particular those related to the criminal activities of terrorist groups". 

With regard to the fight against terrorism, Darmanin referred to "obtaining information from our Moroccan friends on the risks that cross the coastal strip and the desert", in reference to the troubled Sahel area, where various terrorist groups and criminal organisations operate and threaten stability in the area.  

In Rabat, Abdelouafi Laftit and Gérald Darmanin agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism and criminal networks in the Sahel region. 

Abdelaouafi Laftit en su reunión con Gérald Darmanin - PHOTO/FADEL SENNA/AFP
Abdelaouafi Laftit at his meeting with Gérald Darmanin - PHOTO/FADEL SENNA/AFP

At this meeting, which was attended by senior officials from both countries, the two ministers expressed their joint vision of regional and international current affairs and expressed their convergence on security challenges and joint challenges, according to an official statement from the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior.  

Laftit and Darmanin stressed that security and emigration are the pillars of bilateral cooperation, which they described as "profound" and "multidimensional", and pointed out that this cooperation in these two areas is "vital" for coordination between the two departments, which allows "all circumstances to be overcome in a constructive manner". 

According to the official communiqué, the French minister described Morocco as a "reliable partner" at the international level, especially for the countries of the southern Mediterranean. The bilateral meeting was followed by a broader meeting in which the two delegations discussed ways of consolidating cooperation in order to achieve a "strategic and exceptional partnership, based on friendship and respect for common interests", according to the official note.  

This is the third visit by a French minister to Morocco since Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné travelled to the Kingdom at the end of February, in an attempt by Rabat and Paris to restore cordiality to their bilateral relations after a series of crises in recent years.

El ministro marroquí de Exteriores, Nasser Bourita, con su homólogo francés, Stéphane Séjourné, en París - PHOTO/X/@MAROCDIPLOMATIE
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita with his French counterpart Stéphane Séjourné in Paris - PHOTO/X/@MAROCDIPLOMATIE

Support for Moroccan proposal for Western Sahara

Gérald Darmanin visited Rabat in a context of strengthening diplomatic ties between Morocco and France following recent political moves between the two countries.  

These strategic moves have led to a great rapprochement between the two countries, with a view to Morocco's desire for France to solemnly and officially recognise at the highest level its proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara as the most serious and credible way of resolving the Saharawi conflict, which has been going on for more than four decades since Spain left the territory as a colonising power.  

Several important countries such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Israel and even Spain have supported the North African country's alternative to grant broad autonomy to Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty, respecting the resolutions of the United Nations (UN).  

The Moroccan kingdom's proposal enjoys broad international support, in contrast to the Polisario Front's opposing side, which advocates holding a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people, which enjoys less support, including that of Algeria, Morocco's great political rival in the Maghreb.  

France has found itself in the position of having to deal with two countries like Morocco and Algeria at loggerheads over the Saharawi question, even though it has always tried to have good relations simultaneously with both nations, to which it has been linked by strong historical and socio-cultural ties. 

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 in Western Sahara - AFP/FADEL SENNA

But Morocco wants a further step towards full recognition of the Moroccan proposal as the best way to resolve the Sahrawi dispute, and diplomatic pressure seems to be bearing fruit with the latest rapprochement between France and Morocco with a view to overcoming a situation of frozen relations due to the French refusal to openly support the Moroccan proposal for Western Sahara.  

Among these recent moves towards rapprochement were, for example, the reception of Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, for the Moroccan princesses Lalla Meryem, Lalla Asmae and Lalla Hasnaa, and the high-level inter-ministerial meetings between the two countries. 

Along these lines, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Sejourné, recently met his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, in Rabat. In this meeting, Sejourné did go a step further by showing some "clear and constant support" from Paris for Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara. 

"Morocco can count on the clear and constant support of France" for its autonomy plan, he added, according to AFP. "We have said it before and I say it again even more forcefully: now is the time to move forward. I will personally see to it", he stressed.  

In this sense, the French minister announced that he wants to encourage and promote "the development" of this region, while supporting "Moroccan efforts" to achieve this goal. 

"This is an existential question for Morocco, and we know it," declared the head of French diplomacy during a press conference with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita.