Tag Archives: Morocco

Western Sahara Rebels attack Morocco Border.

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Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.

Western Sahara’s pro-independence Polisario Front has bombarded the Guerguerat buffer zone under Moroccan control in the far south of the desert territory in an attack Rabat described as part of a “propaganda war”.

“The Saharawi army launched four rockets in the direction of … Guerguerat,” on the border between Morocco and Mauritania, Saharawi press agency SPS said in a statement on Sunday, citing a military leader of the separatist Saharawi forces.

Morocco launched a military operation on November 13 in the buffer zone of Guerguerat – in the extreme south of the former Spanish colony – to drive out a group of Saharawi rebels who were blocking a transit route to neighbouring Mauritania.

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The SPS statement also reported attacks along the security wall that separates Saharawi fighters from Moroccan forces in the vast desert expanse.

‘Harassing fire’
A senior Moroccan official in Rabat told AFP news agency: “There was harassing fire near the area of Guerguerat, but it did not affect the trunk road, traffic was not disrupted.”

“It’s been part of a cycle of harassment for more than three months,” he said.

“There is a desire to create a propaganda war, a media war, on the existence of a war in the Sahara” but “the situation is normal”, he said.

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In November, Morocco sent troops into a UN-patrolled buffer zone to reopen a key road leading to Mauritania.

The Polisario responded by declaring a 1991 ceasefire null and void, arguing the road had not existed when the truce was signed.

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The two sides are reported to have since exchanged regular fire along the demarcation line.

The UN-backed ceasefire deal was meant to lead to a referendum on self-determination. Morocco has offered autonomy but maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom.

UN-led negotiations involving Morocco and the Polisario, with Algeria and Mauritania as observers, have been suspended since March 2019.

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The Polisario Front, which fought a war for independence from Morocco from 1975 to 1991, said it was still willing to join UN talks on the territory’s future – but would not lay down its arms.

‘Broken promises’
“In the past, we put all our trust in the international community and definitively ended our armed struggle,” senior Polisario security official Sidi Ould Oukal said on Tuesday. “We have waited 30 years. Thirty years of broken promises, prevarication and untenable waiting.”

Ould Oukal insisted the group was “open to any mediation”.

“But at the same time, we will keep up the armed struggle, based on past experiences,” he said.

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For its part, Morocco’s position was reinforced last year by US recognition of its sovereignty over the entire disputed territory, breaking decades of precedent.

The move came under then-President Donald Trump in exchange for Rabat normalising relations with Israel.

Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.

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#Newsworthy

Moroccan king, Mohammed VI visits Israel ‘upon’ Netanyahu’s invite

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The North African country is the third Arab nation this year to normalise ties with the Jewish state under US-brokered deals, while Sudan has pledged to follow suit.

Prime gMinister Benjamin Netanyahu and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI held a telephone conversation during which the Israeli premier invited the king for a visit, Netanyahu’s office said Friday.

The phone call comes three days after an Israeli delegation signed a US-sponsored normalisation agreement with Morocco in Rabat.

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“The leaders congratulated each other over the renewal of ties between the countries, the signing of the joint statement with the US, and the agreements between the two countries,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

“In addition, the processes and mechanisms to implement the agreements were determined,” it added.

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During the “warm and friendly” conversation, Netanyahu invited Mohammed VI to visit Israel, the statement from the prime minister’s office added.

A statement from Morocco’s royal cabinet confirmed Friday’s phone conversation but did not mention Netanyahu’s invitation.

King Mohammed VI, the statement said, “recalled the strong and special links between the Jewish community of Moroccan origin and the Moroccan monarchy”.

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He also “restated the coherent, steadfast and unchanged position of the kingdom of Morocco on the Palestinian issue,” it said.

The Moroccan king also welcome the “reactivation of mechanisms of cooperation” with Israel, it added.

Four bilateral deals were signed Tuesday between Israel and Morocco, centring on direct air links, water management, connecting financial systems and a visa waiver arrangement for diplomats.

Israel and Morocco are also due to reopen diplomatic offices.

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Morocco closed its liaison office in Tel Aviv in 2000, at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Morocco has North Africa’s largest Jewish community of about 3,000 people, and Israel is home to 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin.

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#Newsworthy

Morocco-Israel Norm of ties ‘betrayal of Islam’ – Iran says

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Morocco follows the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in what the Trump administration calls the Abraham Accords.

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned Morocco’s normalisation of ties with the Islamic republic’s arch foe Israel, calling it a “betrayal of Islam”.

The kingdom on Thursday became the fourth Arab state this year to normalise relations with Israel, in a deal announced by outgoing US President Donald Trump.

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In return, Washington fulfilled a decades-old goal of Rabat by recognising its sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.

“The deal between the triangle of America, Morocco and the Zionist regime was done in exchange for Morocco’s betrayal of Islam (and) the Palestinian cause, selling Muslims’ honour to international Zionism,” foreign policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati said on his official website Friday.

He added that the normalisation of ties with Israel was “not a new thing” as the kingdom had maintained a liaison office in Israel in the past.

Blasting all four, Velayati said they will “witness popular uprisings in a not so distant future” as their “dependent, submissive and authoritarian” leaders are unmasked.

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US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara has infuriated the pro-independence Polisario Front, which controls about a fifth of the vast region.

Rabat, which has close ties with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2018 accusing it of backing the Polisario, a charge Iran denied.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Morocco signs 10-year military co-op deal with United States

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The United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a 10-year military cooperation deal in Rabat, Morocco on Friday — two days after signing a similar deal in Tunisia as he made his final stop on a North African tour aimed at strengthening the fight against Islamist extremists in war-torn Libya and the Sahel-Sahara region.

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Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Foreign Minister, shared a few words in a public address, “Our long-standing alliance has not only endured the test of time. We have stood side by side throughout the major challenges that shaped the 20th century, and we have transitioned into the 21st century stronger than ever.”

A sentiment which seems to be shared by the States who sees Morocco as a key ally in this terrorist-challenged area of the continent. Esper followed in kind, “Now more than ever, our two nations are working closely together to tackle the challenges of an increasingly complex security environment – ranging from counterterrorism and other transnational threats to regional instability and broader strategic challenges.”

The goal of Esper’s visit was to reinforce mutual cooperation between the two nations as Morocco already hosts the largest annual US joint military exercise in Africa, “African Lion” — cancelled this year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

His visit came as talks between Libyan rivals were set to restart Friday evening in Bouznika, near Rabat, according to a Moroccan official.


#Newsworthy…

Talks hold in Morocco amongst rival Libyan administrations

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Delegates from Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and rival eastern-based parliament meet after ceasefire.

Delegates from Libya’s rival administrations met for talks in Morocco more than two weeks after the two sides announced a surprise ceasefire.

The meeting, held on Sunday at the initiative of Morocco, which hosted peace talks in 2015 that led to the creation of a United Nations-recognised government for Libya, kicked off in the coastal town of Bouznika, south of Rabat.

Dubbed “Libyan Dialogue”, the talks brought together five members of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and five from a parliament in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.

The discussions were a prelude to a major meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, on Monday and Tuesday that brings together the leaders of rival Libyan groups.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, in remarks before Sunday’s meeting got under way, said his country was offering Libyans “space” to discuss points of contention dividing them.

“The kingdom is ready to provide Libyans with a space to discuss [issues], according to their will, and will applaud them regardless of the outcome,” Bourita said.

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“Morocco has no agenda or initiative to submit” to the two sides, Bourita added.

A solution to Libya’s crisis must be decided by the Libyans themselves under the auspices of the United Nations, he said, before delegates met behind closed doors.

Beaten back
Libya has endured about 10 years of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The crisis worsened last year when renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar – who backs the Tobruk parliament and is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia – launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli from the GNA.

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Haftar was beaten back earlier this year by Turkish-backed GNA forces and fighting has now stalled around the Mediterranean city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s eastern oilfields and export terminals.

On August 22, the rival administrations announced separately they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections, drawing praise from world powers.

Peter Millett, a former British ambassador to Libya, said the rival sides talking was a good first step, but there is much work to do to achieve lasting peace.

Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s minister of foreign affairs, chairs a meeting of Libya’s rival administrations [Fadel Senna/AFP]

“First of all, it needs the buy-in of broader group of political players – tribal leaders, society leaders, municipal leaders. Secondly, it needs the buy-in from the military factions, particularly Haftar, and it has to be a genuine ceasefire,” Millett told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “Thirdly, it needs the buy-in of the entire international community.”

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‘Foreign players’
Mohamed Chtatou, a professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat, said Sunday’s talks were “historic in many ways” and likely touched on possible appointees for a future government and key positions, including head of the Central Bank of Libya, chairman of the National Oil Corporation, and the prosecutor general.

“This meeting is good for the reunification of Libya and bringing the country back on its feet,” Chtatou told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “I’m sure the foreign players are not happy about what is happening because they all have their stakes in Libya. The Libyans want peace and it’s Libyans talking to Libyans – so that is very important.”

Reporting from Tripoli, Noble Reporters Media said the fact that Haftar is not represented at the meeting does not mean he is excluded.

“In fact, the delegation representing the Tobruk-based parliament is considered in one way or another the political arm of Haftar’s forces on the ground. So the Tobruk-based parliament, which is affiliated to the warlord Khalifa Haftar, is now representing Haftar’s view in the meeting in Morocco,” he said.

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Delegates from the two sides will also meet other factions, including political parties and remnants of Gaddafi’s regime, for talks brokered by the European Union and the UN mission (UNSMIL) in Switzerland starting on Monday.

Sunday’s meeting in Morocco coincided with closed-door talks in Istanbul between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj, the Turkish presidency said.

During the meeting, Erdogan stated Turkey will “continue to stand in solidarity with Libya’s UN-recognised legitimate government, and reiterated that Turkey’s priority is to restore Libya’s stability, without further delay”, a statement said.

“Libya’s peace and stability would benefit its neighbours and the entire region, starting with Europe,” said Erdogan. “The international community ought to assume a principled stance in that regard.”

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Future settlement ‘complicated’
At a January summit in Berlin, the main countries involved in the Libyan conflict agreed to respect an arms embargo and to stop interfering in Libya’s domestic affairs.

But on Wednesday, the interim UN envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, denounced what she called “blatant” ongoing violations of the arms embargo in the North African country.

According to an interim report from UN experts, “the arms embargo remains totally ineffective” and violations are “extensive, blatant and with complete disregard for the sanctions”.

Williams said UNSMIL was also receiving reports of the “large-scale presence of foreign mercenaries and operatives” in Libya, adding this complicates chances of a future settlement.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Football clubs in Egypt, Morocco suffers virus impact.

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More than 20 positive tests for coronavirus at several clubs led to the postponement or cancellation of league matches in Morocco and Egypt at the weekend.

Three matchday 22 fixtures were called off in the Moroccan Botola Pro 1 with Ittihad Tangier worst affected as 23 of the staff tested positive.

Wydad Casablanca and Rapide Oued Zem were also hit by a COVID-19 outbreak and could not play.

Egyptian club Al Masry said 22 of their staff tested positive and the Port Said outfit did not turn up for a fixture against Ismaily.

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EGYPT

With runaway leaders Al Ahly set for a record-extending 42nd title, arch rivals Zamalek improved their chances of coming second thanks to a 1-0 win over lowly Misr Lel Makkasa.

Forward Hossam Ashraf scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to secure three points for Zamalek, whose rivalry with fellow Cairo club Ahly dates back to 1911.

Third-place Pyramids FC had to come from two goals behind to draw 2-2 against relegation-threatened El Gaish with Tunisian Amor Layouni levelling eight minutes from time.

Ahly have 53 points, Zamalek 38, Pyramids 36 and Al Mokawloon Al Arab 34 in the strongest league in the continent judged by Confederation of African Football (CAF) titles.

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MOROCCO

Raja Casablanca won 2-0 at lowly Hassania Agadir and extended an unbeaten run to six matches since play resumed last month after a suspension since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The leaders needed just three minutes to break the deadlock in southern Morocco with Soufiane Rahimi scoring and Hamid Ahaddad added a second goal soon after half-time.

Raja have won four matches and drawn two since the resumption, and the 14-point haul has propelled them to the top of the table with nine rounds remaining.

The three-time African champions have 42 points, arch-rivals Wydad Casablanca 40, Renaissance Berkane 39 and FUS Rabat and Mouloudia Oujda 36 each.

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TUNISIA

Leaders Esperance snatched a 1-1 draw at Etoile Sahel in the biggest matchday 20 attraction of the Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1.

Karim Aribi gave fourth-place Etoile a 19th-minute lead they held until the third minute of additional time when Taha Yassine Khenissi equalised.

Ivorian Chris Kouakou netted after 14 minutes to earn second-place CS Sfaxien a 1-0 home victory over mid-table Soliman.

Esperance have 50 points with six rounds remaining as they chase a fourth straight title, Sfaxien 40, Monastir 39, Etoile 34 and Club Africain 33.

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ZANZIBAR

Mlandege have been crowned champions in the semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, garnering 68 points from 30 matches to finish one point above Zimamoto.

It was the seventh title for the club, but the first since 2002, and success qualifies them for a maiden CAF Champions League appearance next season.

Zimamoto trounced Kapinga 4-0 in the final round while JKU came third after drawing 1-1 with Malindi.

Defending champions KMKM had to settle for fourth spot, 12 points adrift of Mlandege, after a 2-2 draw against Mafunzo.


#NobleSports

Storyline: 102 stranded Nigerians in Morocco arrive Abuja

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About 102 stranded Nigerians have arrived in Abuja from Morocco.

The evacuees arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Thursday with Air Morocco from Casablanca.

This was announced on the official Twitter handle of the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).

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Prior to their return, the commission noted that the evacuees tested negative to COVID-19 and will proceed on a mandatory self-isolation.

“Air Morocco from Casablanca with estimated 102 Nigerians arrive Nnamdi Azikiwe Int’l Airport, Abuja at about 1602hrs from Morroco today 30th July 2020,” the agency said.

“All Evacuees tested Negative to #COVID19 and will now proceed on a 14-day SELF-ISOLATION as mandated by the NCDC.”


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Morocco set to release 5,600 inmates to curb spread.


Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Sunday pardoned more than 5,600 prisoners and ordered their release in stages to avoid contagion in the country’s overcrowded jails.

The justice ministry said the 5,654 detainees that would be freed were selected based in their age, health, good conduct and length of detention.


They would be released in stages due to “exceptional circumstances linked to the emergency health situation and necessary precautions” against the virus, it said in a statement.

The decision came as the COVID-19 illness has officially killed 66 people and infected 960 in the North African country.


The king also ordered authorities to take “all the necessary measures to reinforce the protection of detainees in prisons” which are widely known to be overcrowded.

Morocco, home to 35 million people, has an estimated 232 detainees per 100,000 inhabitants.


With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, rights groups have urged authorities to release all political prisoners, including those held in preventive detention or nearing the end of the terms.

But it was not immediately clear if detainees linked to the “Hirak” protest movement that rocked northern Morocco in 2016 and 2017 would be among those pardoned by the king.


Morocco’s prison authorities have meanwhile taken measures to protect staff and reduced visits.

The UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet last month said countries should consider releasing older detainees and low-risk offenders.

Several other countries, including Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia, have moved to release thousands of prisoners to lower the risk of a major outbreak of the virus in prisons.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Turkey, Morocco suspend Friday prayers, mosque services.


Turkey and Morocco highest religious authorities have suspended all congregational services, including Friday prayers, at mosques across the country to contain the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Ali Erbas, the Head of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) in Turkey, said this at a news conference on Monday.

Erbas said that mosques would remain open for individuals, but not for group prayers.

“Until the danger of spreading the new type of Coronavirus disappears, it has become necessary to interrupt prayers with the community in mosques and masjids [small mosques or prayer rooms], especially Friday prayers,” Erbas said.

The decision affects tens of thousands of mosques across the country.

The Diyanet head urged the faithful to pray at home.

Noting that one of the main tenets of Islam is to protect people’s lives, Erbas recounted how the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had cautioned believers not to leave places hit by plague and to respect quarantine measures.

As Turkey ramps up measures to ward off an outbreak, the Interior Ministry ordered the closure of bars, discos and nightclubs in all 81 provinces as of Monday.

It didn’t say how long the ban, in effect from 10 a.m (0700 GMT), would last.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul announced additional measures, such as postponing court hearings.

Turkey has so far confirmed 18 cases, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who didn’t provide their location.

Announcing the largest single-day increase, Koca said late on Sunday that the new cases included seven people who had returned to Turkey from Europe and three from the U.S.

Koca said two of the new cases were related to the first positive case reported on March 11.

Turkish authorities haven’t reported any deaths from the COVID-19 disease.

The government had previously closed schools and universities and suspended flights to several countries.

It also quarantined thousands of pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia in student dormitories in the capital Ankara and the central Anatolian city of Konya.

Similarly, Morocco on Monday decided to shut down all mosques during all five daily and weekly Friday prayers until further notice, the country’s supreme religious council has said.

The decision is in line with the precautionary measures to curb the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, the council said in an official statement.

The measure is temporary and the adhan (call to Muslim prayer) will continue at all mosques, it however said.

Earlier on Monday, the Moroccan government announced the closure of restaurants, clubs, movie theaters and gym clubs, amid COVID-19 spread fears.

The Moroccan health ministry said 29 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by Sunday night.


#Newsworthy…