Morocco’s FM Nasser has reiterated the country’s commitment to the African continent and said that Rabat is open to improving its diplomatic relations with South Africa as part of a wider determination to further intra-African cooperation.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with South African newspaper “The Star,” the Moroccan top diplomat said that he firmly believes that strengthening ties between South Africa and Morocco “will be in the interest of the continent.”
Because “South Africa and Morocco are both recognized as major players on the continent and beyond,” Bourita argued, both countries “have every interest to better exploit the enormous potential they hold.”
Morocco, according to Bourita, is convinced stronger cooperation with South Africa will in turn strengthen Africa’s position on the world stage.
“The Kingdom has called for more effective solidarity, cooperation and coordination in Africa, to enable our continent to be more resilient and better prepared for contingencies and emergencies,” he said, referring to the lasting impacts the COVID-19 crisis has had on the continent.
“Morocco and South Africa are among the very few African countries that currently have the tools and skills to effectively accommodate the needs of the African continent in vaccines and medical equipment against Covid-19,” he added.
Bourita explained that since Morocco and South Africa are the largest African investors on the continent and in their respective regions, they have a duty to play a major role in the African integration process.
In one of his questions to Bourita, Sifiso Mahlangu, The Star’s editor, recalled Morocco’s role in black South Afria’sca’s struggle against Apartheid.
“Morocco and South Africa share a common history. One needs to remember that the Kingdom of Morocco was among the staunchest supporters of ANC, and among the first African countries to support militarily, logistically and diplomatically,” noted the South African journalist.
In response to the question of what has changed in the once strong, fraternal relations between Morocco and the ANC, South Africa’s ruling party in the past three decades, Bourita said that “nothing has changed.” He went on to recall that “Nelson Mandela and South African freedom fighters were training in eastern Morocco, between the cities of Oujda and Berkane.”
If anything has changed, Bourita suggested, it is South Africa’s relentless hostility when it comes to the Western Sahara question. He said, “I would argue that the existence of differences in opinion is a healthy thing. But, the attitude of our brothers in Pretoria on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara, unfortunately, has too often gone beyond a difference of opinion but has been of adversity.”
He reiterated Morocco’s readiness and openness to engage in dialogue with South Africa, as long as this happens within the norms of “mutual respect and a sincere desire to clean up relations and bring them to their full potential.”
On Western Sahara, an important point of contention between the two countries, Bourita reaffirmed Morocco's stance, saying that “the autonomy initiative under Moroccan sovereignty is the one and only way to a final solution to this regional dispute.”
Pointing out the latest developments in the territorial dispute in southern Morocco, the Moroccan minister emphasized the importance for foreign commentators and politicians to get their facts right when it comes to the history of the conflict - as well as the best way forward.
He spoke of the historical foundations of Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory, and of the increasing international support for Rabat’s 2007 Autonomy Plan as the most viable way out of the four-decade long political and diplomatic stasis in Western Sahara.
Morocco’s autonomy plan calls for local political autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, and the consensus in UN circles is that the proposal is a “serious” and “credible” step in the direction of a lasting political solution to the Sahara crisis. To date, over fifty countries have expressed their unequivocal support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative.
Most recently, twenty-five countries, including 15 from Africa, opened diplomatic representations in Laayoune and Dakhla, the two main cities in Morocco’s southern provinces.
However, despite the increasing pro-Morocco momentum around the Western Sahara issue, South Africa remains a loyal polisario sympathizer, deepening the divergences between Pretoria and Rabat.
Bourita’s hopeful tone about a potential South Africa-Morocco rapprochement is not the first time Morocco has signalled a desire to build bridges with a country it considers as an important African partner.
Youssef Amrani, a veteran and revered diplomat whose appointment as Morocco’s ambassador to South Africa was considered to “herald the beginning of a whole new era” in the crucial relationship between two continental leaders, has also been a fierce advocate of the need for Pretoria and Rabat to team up to inspire a new age of African unity and confidence.
As established regional leaders with visions for a more prosperous Africa, Amrani told a gathering of intellectuals and diplomats in Pretoria in August 2019, diplomatic Morocco and South Africa are key to a successful African integration.
"We are convinced that the current process of globalization can not continue without a developed, prosperous and self-sufficient Africa," he said