Morocco Opts for Neutrality in Qatar-GCC Rift

Morocco said that it is following the developments in the rift between Qatar and six Arab countries -Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, and Yemen— which severed their relations with Qatar on Monday over its alleged support of terrorism.

“Morocco is closely following the unfolding of events in the Gulf countries and the Moroccan diplomacy, known for restraint and wisdom, is in contact with all countries to understand what happened,” Morocco’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita told the local press.

Despite geographic distance, Morocco maintains strong ties with GCC countries, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In April 2016, a GCC-Morocco summit stressed the importance of the strategic partnership binding the two parties. The event was reflective of the Gulf countries’ endeavor to ensure the political and military support of Morocco, while Morocco was more concerned about ensuring the GCC political support on the Sahara issue and maintaining the flow of Gulf financial aid and investments.

In 2012, four Gulf states – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE – agreed to provide aid worth a total $5 billion to Morocco in the period 2012-2017 to build up its infrastructure, strengthen its economy and foster tourism.

Therefore, the best policy response for Morocco to the GCC rift is to maintain neutrality and seek mediation between its close allies in the Gulf.

The state-run Kuwait News Agency reported that its ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, spoke with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on Monday evening and urged him to give a chance to efforts that could ease tensions. The call came after a senior Saudi royal arrived in Kuwait with a message from the Saudi king.

Turkey also offered its mediation to defuse the diplomatic tension between Qatar and its neighbors and Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged for dialogue to solve the crisis.

“There could be problems between the countries but dialogue must prevail under all circumstances,” Cavusoglu told reporters, adding Ankara was ready to do its best to help resolve the dispute.

Iran and Iraq have joined Turkey to discuss the tension. The Head of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, Mohsen Rezai announced Monday that politicians from the three countries would be meeting in the Iraqi capital to ponder over the crisis. “Iran, Turkey and Iraq will meet in Baghdad to invite the Islamic Conference (OIC) to resolve the issue of Qatar,” Rezai said on his official Twitter account.

Saudi Arabia has closed its borders with Qatar and ended land, sea, and air contact with its neighbor, a move that will have severe impacts on Doha’s economy.

The six Arab nations also suspended Qatar from the military coalition that is fighting in Yemen’s civil war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Saudi Arabia Monday pressed ahead to close Doha-based Al Jazeera’s office in Riyadh, saying the channel constitutes a threat to national security due to its support of terrorist groups.

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