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Morocco: Macron condemns controversy over position on French aid

September 13, 2023 at 9:40 am

French President Emmanuel Macron on July 18, 2023 [Nicolas Landemard/Anadolu Agency]

French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned the controversy surrounding relations between Paris and Rabat, after Morocco refused to accept aid offered to it by France following the devastating earthquake that struck the Marrakesh region last week. Morocco announced on Sunday that it had accepted support from four countries: Spain, the UK, Qatar and the UAE, but it did not request assistance from France, which immediately raised many questions.

Macron said that his country was ready to intervene as soon as it receives a request in this regard from the Moroccan authorities. That was on Sunday, but yesterday he felt the need to address the Moroccan people in a video message on X: “It is obviously up to His Majesty the King and the government of Morocco, in a fully sovereign manner, to organise international aid and therefore we are at the disposal of their sovereign choice.”

The French President added that, “This is from the first second what we have been doing in a completely normal way and therefore I would like all the controversies which come to divide, which come to complicate things in this moment which is already so tragic, could be silent out of respect for everyone.”

Relations between Morocco and France, the former colonial power which is home to a large Moroccan community, have been tense since Macron tried to get closer to Algeria. The Algerians severed diplomatic relations with Rabat in 2021, after accusing the Kingdom of carrying out “hostile actions”.

READ: Morocco earthquake toll passes 2,800 as rescuers search for survivors

The relationship between Paris and Rabat was affected by the restrictions that Paris imposed on granting visas to Moroccans, before lifting them in December. There has been no Moroccan ambassador to France for months.

Rabat’s patience is also beginning to run out because Paris does not seem ready to change its position on the thorny issue of Western Sahara. Morocco blames France for not following in the footsteps of the US and Israel, which recognised the “Moroccanness” of Western Sahara. The territory is disputed by Morocco and the Polisario Front, which is supported by Algeria, even though Rabat controls approximately 80 per cent of it.

In his message to the Moroccan people, the French President added, “We are at your side today and tomorrow.”

Along with the frozen French aid awaiting Rabat’s approval, Paris announced aid of €5 million for NGOs present in Morocco which contribute to relief efforts.