Moroccan foreign policy has received a lot of attention in recent months amid its escalation Tensions with the European Union, talking about more rapprochement with Israeland stronger attitudes towards their participation in Libyan peace process and its claim over the disputed territories Western Desert. Some argue that US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the latter has an effect boldness decision makers, while others describe Rabat’s recent redirects as “violent. What is actually going on with the kingdom’s foreign policy?
With Morocco’s relations with its traditional partners in Europe and with Gulf states at times strained over the past decade, Morocco’s decision-makers have sought to strengthen the Kingdom’s standing regionally and internationally through three strategies aimed at advancing its diplomatic, political, security and economic interests: Relying on traditional partners and responding to their demands; Attracting investment from Asia and Europe by transforming the Kingdom into an African financial and commercial center; and positioning the country as a regional security partner, stabilization provider, and mediator by assuming a participating role in the Libyan peace process and partly normalizing relations with Israel. What are the implications of this approach?
The first decade of the twenty-first century saw the strengthening of relations between the Kingdom and its counterparts in the Gulf, which have long been Rabat’s traditional partners, and which provide it with financial support and support in regional forums in exchange for security cooperation. However, between 2017 and 2021, Morocco’s close relations with Qatar and its neutral position during the Saudi and Emirati leadership siege Against the latter raised tensions with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Although Morocco officially refused to take sides, it can be said that it favored Qatar, sending supplies amid fears of food shortages and maintaining security and trade relations despite pressure from the blockading countries, which adopted an anti-Moroccan rhetoric, canceled planned trips, and recalled ambassadors.
The kingdom also clashed with Europe – the largest Commerce a partner, Investor, And donors – over and over again over the past decade, including with Spain And Germany over the Western Sahara this year. Despite deep economic ties and a particularly close relationship with France, Moroccan decision makers have sought to limit the influence of the European Union on the kingdom by taking advantage of The role of the country In controlling irregular migration to Europe and helping European countries such as France And Spain thwart terrorist attacks on their lands.
Normalization with Israel: two birds, one stone
In addition to its symbolic significance, the Moroccan state’s historic deal with Israel and the United States has significant security, financial, and diplomatic ramifications. The United States pledged, in return for partial – not full – normalization of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara 3 billion dollars in investment for its own sector, and agreed to a Billion dollar arms sale (pending congressional approval). Partial normalization could also guarantee significant benefits from Israel in terms of trade, investment, and cooperation in key sectors such as tourism and technology.
Although some domestic discontent And regional cashMore rapprochement between Morocco and Israel is likely. In fact, the Moroccan Foreign Minister expressed Kingdom’s intent to take the relationship as far as possible; The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel recently announce He will visit Rabat in mid-August. The two countries signed a cyber defense agreement In July 2021, security and economic cooperation is likely to increase in the future. As long as the Biden administration has not backtracked on its predecessor’s admission, Rabat still has no reason to withdraw from the deal. However, Morocco is still not likely to go so far as to open an embassy in Israel due to local and regional opinion.
Investing in Africa
Since 2016, Morocco has stepped up its economic and diplomatic presence in sub-Saharan Africa. Moroccan companies have increased their cooperation with their sub-Saharan counterparts in various sectors, particularly in the areas of telecommunications, insurance, banking and manufacturing. In fact, over ten years (2008-2018), Moroccan-African trade increased by 68%. In 2018, 85% of the Kingdom’s FDI went to sub-Saharan countries. In 2017, the kingdom rejoined the African Union over three decades after it withdrew its membership in protest of Western Sahara’s acceptance as an independent member state.
Morocco’s involvement in the region will not only strengthen its economy and diversify its alliance base, but will also make it the gateway for the West and China to Africa – thus opening the door to trilateral trade deals and cooperation. Indeed, economic cooperation with Sub-Saharan Africa is closely linked to Rabat’s move to forge closer ties with China over the past five years. In the same year Morocco returned to the African Union, the Bank of China opened Its first branch is in Morocco, while Morocco’s Bank of Africa has opened a branch in Shanghai. Moroccan decision-makers aim to turn Casablanca into a major financial center on the continent, and Chinese financial institutions are seeking to manage their activity in African markets from there.
Due to Morocco’s proximity to Europe, China is also seeking to establish factories in the Kingdom to manufacture goods that can be exported to Europe. In addition, Chinese construction companies have participated in Tangier Med A $10 billion industrial port complex being built in northern Morocco and the largest port in Africa. Morocco’s relationship with China was largely successful because, unlike Europe, China did not seek to interfere in the internal affairs of the kingdom.
Mediation game in Libya
In another step toward enhancing the country’s international standing, Moroccan decision makers have focused on the kingdom’s position as a provider and mediator of regional stability, most notably in Libya. the Skhirat Agreement which resulted in international recognition of the Government of National Accord as the sole legitimate authority in Libya, was signed in Morocco in 2015. Apparently in reference to international processes such as Berlin Conference, Moroccan decision-makers have constantly strengthened the internal Libyan dialogue, and described their position on Libya as one of the active neutrality Which seeks to facilitate communication between all Libyan parties.
Recently, the head of the Supreme Council of State, Khaled Al-Mashri, and the Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh, announced, he met In Morocco last month to discuss the issue of key institutional positions in Libya. Rabat hosted a total of four meetings between rival factions to discuss the next steps in Libya’s political process last yearIt brings together representatives of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State, as well as parliamentarians from the Tripoli and Tobruk branches of the divided House of Representatives. Over the summer, meetings between Libyan and Moroccan officials multiplied, with many revealing their work on enhancing security cooperation, a potential military partnership, bilateral economic forums, and cooperation in the field of renewable energy.
Takeaway and Outlook: Encouraging Policy?
The recent US support for Morocco may have encouraged decision makers to harden their positions on regional issues and confront key partners. However, the kingdom’s approach is not unexpected. As it has done over the past decade, the country is pursuing a strategic and independent foreign policy, aimed at strengthening its position internationally and regionally through new partnerships, as well as by deepening security and diplomatic cooperation with traditional partners. More importantly, Morocco’s expanded base of support and security tools has changed its relationship with key partners and drawn the attention of decision makers to a stronger role at the regional and international levels.
From now on, the country is likely to continue to maintain neutrality in various foreign policy files, including regional crises. Emboldened by recent diplomatic successes, decision makers appear to be less likely to bow to international pressures and more likely to stand their ground, particularly vis-à-vis Europe. Although the country is expected to strive to maintain strong relations with the European Union, it will work to cement red lines that cannot be crossed.
Moroccan policymakers will likely continue to pursue their role in the Libyan peace process to advance their economic and diplomatic interests. The frequency of meetings brokered by Morocco for and with Libyan officials will allow the Kingdom to develop economic relations with Libya, especially with regard to energy and trade. More importantly, this role will make it easier for Rabat to control the influence of rival Algeria in North Africa.
In the broader MENA region, the country will strive to portray itself as a neutral facilitator to garner international and regional support and open the door to future diplomatic and economic cooperation. Likewise, Rabat will deepen mutually beneficial relations with sub-Saharan Africa, making it a more attractive partner for China and Europe. On the security front, it will intensify its strength Getting involved in the coastal area Where it will issue security and try to contain terrorist activity. In terms of normalization, the country is unlikely to back down from the Israeli deal and present itself as a potential facilitator of talks between Israel and the Palestinians.