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Morocco visit to Mauritania to dispel tension unsuccessful

Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's visit to Mauritania on behalf of Morocco's King Mohamed VI has not gone well, according to state news site Le 360.

Benkirane was dispatched to Morocco following controversial comments made by the secretary-general of the Independence Party, Hamid Chabat, who declared last week that "Mauritania is Moroccan land and that the borders of Morocco extend from Sebta in the north to the river Senegal in the south".

The attack on the territorial integrity of Mauritania was denounced by Mauritian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

To calm the situation and avoid any crisis, King Mohamed VI called the Mauritanian president before sending the head of his government on a diplomatic mission of reconciliation.

The audience granted to Benkirane lasted 45 minutes instead of the two hours that was originally planned and reports have speculated this is due to the Mauritanian president's "annoyance" at having to denounce "some immature Moroccan politicians who create crises between countries" through "their statements or initiatives, both unfounded and awkward."

"The latest release of Hamid Chabat is part of a series of awkward statements that have undermined Moroccan diplomacy," one magazine, TelQuel, wrote.

During a press conference held Wednesday morning this week after his meeting with the Mauritanian President, Benkirane stated that "the future ties between the two countries will be further strengthened in order for Mauritanian citizens to feel that they enjoy all their rights in Morocco, with the same being true for Moroccans in Mauritania."

Tensions between the two countries come at a time when Morocco is trying to join the African Union (AU) and where the Kingdom has applied for accession which will be examined at the next AU summit in January 2017.

Following a meeting with Moroccan delegate Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita earlier this week, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz announced that a new ambassador to Morocco will be chosen.

Bourita was in Maurtiania, "to deepen [diplomatic] discussions with Mauritanian officials on bilateral projects and to embark on procedures that could possibly be implemented," according to state sources.

According to Mauritanian media, Bourita also discussed the implementation of royal orders to dispel any misunderstandings or actions that might affect relations between Rabat and Nouakchott in the future.

Mauritania's embassy in Rabat was abandoned after the retirement of former Ambassador to Morocco Mohamed Ould Muawiya in 2012. Since then, Mauritania's president has not appointed any ambassador to Morocco.

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