Magharebia (Washington DC)

Mauritania: Morocco, Mauritania Boost Ties

Morocco and Mauritania need to strengthen co-operation "at political, economic, social and cultural levels for the interests of both countries" and the region.

Such was the message of Istiqlal Secretary-General Hamid Chabat, whose party on Wednesday (March 13th) concluded a four-day visit to Nouakchott.

The future of the region rests with building "a strong Maghreb Union", said Chabat who met with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Mauritania's ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) party.

"The visit enabled discussion of ways to exchange experiences between the two parties," the two parties said in a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

"It led to the signing of an agreement outlining co-operation and integration between the two sides in the future. Also discussed were ways of consolidating and revitalising the historical brotherly relations between Morocco and Mauritania in various areas, including meetings at the level of youth and women's committees," the statement added.

The Istiqlal visit coincided with that of Moroccan Foreign Minister Saadeddine El Othmani, who met with Ould Abdel Aziz on Monday (March 11th).

"I passed to the President the greetings of His Majesty King Mohammed VI as well as His Majesty's interest in developing bilateral relations with broader dimensions at the political, economic, cultural and popular levels," El Othmani told ANI after the meeting.

"We talked about the future of these relations and the preparations for the upcoming High Commission meeting, which will be held in Nouakchott soon," he said.

"The talks included also recent issues of common concern, particularly regional issues such as Mali. I listened with great interest to the president's analysis on this issue, its developments and its future," he added.

The Moroccan minister lauded Mauritania's "positive and strong" role in resolving the Mali crisis.

"The Kingdom of Morocco tried to play a role in urging all parties and all neighbouring countries to contribute actively and to support the efforts of neighbouring countries as well as the efforts carried out by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)," El Othmani continued.

"The meeting also allowed the review of the workshops involving the Republic of Mali at the security, political, developmental and humanitarian levels. All these workshops are of interest to both countries," he added.

Observers comment that this political and diplomatic move reflects Morocco's increased interest in Mauritania. It would push Maghreb economic integration and enhance political relations, and would therefore be a prelude to more important steps in the future, analysts say.

"Even though Morocco has strong historical ties with Mauritania, this intense move by its diplomats and politicians will restore the glow to those relations and lead social and popular relations to a more formal stage," said Cheikh Ould Mohamed Horma, who works for Sahara Media Foundation.

"The step taken by the Moroccan Foreign Minister in inaugurating a diplomatic compound in the heart of the capital is in line with the size of the daily flow of Mauritanian citizens to Morocco for study, treatment and investment," he added.

Morocco's diplomatic move was dictated by security development in the region, especially northern Mali, analyst Osman Ag Mohamed Osman argued.

Mauritania is "an important destination point" for consultations on counter-terrorism, he commented.

"Morocco's interest particularly in the Malian situation began with the Casablanca bombings in May 2003," Ag Mohamed Osman added.

"Since then, Morocco has increased its diplomatic representation from just an ordinary office to a sizable diplomatic mission. Mauritania remains the connecting point between the countries of the Maghreb and Mali due to its geographical proximity and its excellent relations," he said.

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