Antony Blinken visits Morocco to strengthen regional security partnership

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on February 1, 2022.

After meeting with Arab allies in Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Morocco to consolidate a regional strategic partnership in a climate of tension in the Maghreb and the Gulf. In Rabat, Mr Blinken will meet again with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, who will attend Monday’s unprecedented meeting in Israel’s Negev desert with three other Arab ministers, as well as Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch.

He will also meet with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Ben Zayed Al Nahyan, whose relations with his traditional US ally are experiencing certain tensions. On Wednesday the State Secretary will close his regional tour with a stop in Algeria, rival of Morocco in North Africa and ally of Russia. During these trips, his lectures will focus on bilateral and regional security, the fight against terrorism in sahelhuman rights, but also the economic consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, such as the risk of a wheat shortage, US officials said.

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In Rabat, the matter of the disputed territory of Western Saharaa priority for Moroccan diplomacy, should be at the top of the agenda. “Again, the national case, after the recognition by the United States of the ‘Moroccanness’ of the Sahara [en décembre 2020]† will dominate this visit”Moroccan historian Moussaoui Ajlaoui recalled in an interview with the semi-official news site The 360. In a statement, the State Department reiterated U.S. support for the autonomy plan — called “serious, credible and realistic” – offered by Morocco to the . to arrange “disagreement” who has resisted the Sahrawi separatists, backed by Algiers, for decades.

Yemen, Iran, Sahel and Ukraine

At the same time, Washington assured the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy, Staffan de Mistura, of its support for the restart of the UN. “political process” under the auspices of the United Nations. The State Department has also touted a “strategic partnership rooted in common interests for peace, security and prosperity” of the region. As for the war in Ukraine, Morocco did not participate in the two UN General Assembly votes condemning the Russian invasion, thus taking no position in the conflict. This claimed neutrality illustrates Rabat’s desire not to alienate Russia, a member of the UN Security Council, over the issue of Western Sahara, analysts say.

In addition, Antony Blinken will have the opportunity to discuss regional security with Prince Mohammed Ben Zayed Al Nahyane, known as “MBZ”, the strongman of the United Arab Emirates, who has a residence in Morocco. Like Israel, the Emirates and Morocco are united against Iran, while the United States wants to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which would prevent it from acquiring the atomic bomb in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. In addition, the Emirates are part of a military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, that has been helping the government of Yemen since 2015 in the war against the Houthis, close to Iran.

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In Algiers, Mr Blinken will continue his discussions on security cooperation – particularly in the Sahel – and the Ukrainian crisis. The US diplomat could thus call for the reopening of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which could reduce the dependence of European Union countries on Russian gas. This pipeline to Spain and through Morocco was closed by Algeria in October after breaking diplomatic relations with Rabat in August 2021. Algiers then pleaded for“hostile acts” of his neighbor to justify his decision. In addition to Western Sahara, the accelerated normalization between Morocco and Israel is one of the disputes between the two hostile brothers of the Maghreb.

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