26 March 2013

Morocco's King Mohammed VI Deepens Ties With African States

On an official visit to Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, and Gabon, King Mohammed VI underscored Morocco's commitment to African solidarity to meet security and economic challenges facing the region, in particular concerns about al-Qaeda-linked extremists who seized control of northern Mali last year and threaten to spread across Africa's Sahel. On his first two stops, King Mohammed VI received strong support from Senegal and Cote D'Ivoire for Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara, as well as reached agreement on a host of economic and development initiatives.

At a dinner hosted by President Macky Sall in Dakar on March 15, King Mohammed VI praised Senegal as "a model on a continent still in the grip of turbulence and upheavals of a supposedly bygone era." He noted the "vibrant, rich and unique" relationship between Morocco and Senegal and said, "we see eye-to-eye on all major international and African issues, especially with respect to the growing challenges and risks facing our common strategic space, which borders the Atlantic and the Sahel region."

The King noted the growth in bilateral economic and trade relations between the two countries, and the increasing flow of Moroccan private investment and assistance in a range of Senegal's economic sectors. The two heads of state presided over the signing of two bilateral agreements, increasing cooperation on international land transport of goods and persons, and on mining, hydrocarbons, electricity, and renewable energies.

They also dedicated the Mohammed VI ophthalmologic clinic and a medicine production plant "West Afric Pharma," a branch of the Moroccan lab SOTHEMA Maroc. The projects confirmed Morocco's commitment to sustainable African development and a solidarity-based South-South cooperation.

At the conclusion of the visit, President Sall praised Morocco's advances on a number of key initiatives and King Mohammed VI for his leadership promoting democracy, economic, and social development, as well as human rights. He described Morocco's initiative for autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara as the ideal solution to that conflict. The two heads of state reaffirmed their desire to reinforce and deepen their strategic partnership and make it an example of South-South cooperation and African integration.

In Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, on March 20, President Alassane Ouattara congratulated the Moroccan people, whose "maturity and wisdom have allowed your country to cross the Arab Spring that has shaken some Maghreb countries." He praised King Mohammed VI for the political reforms taking place under his leadership, which have resulted in continued progress on democracy in Morocco. Ouattara called on Morocco and its businessmen to invest in Cote d'Ivoire to support his country's efforts of reconstruction and sustainable development.

The two heads of state presided over the signing of six bilateral cooperation agreements, to strengthen cooperation between the foreign ministries, on promoting and protecting investments, on fisheries and aquaculture, on air transport, on vocational training in tourism, and on Moroccan-Ivorian disaster management.

On Western Sahara, Ouattara expressed support for Morocco's autonomy initiative, calling it "an appropriate solution to definitively settle the conflict." The Moroccan and Ivorian leaders stressed that the persistent conflict threatens regional stability and poses an obstacle to regional cooperation and development essential to meeting the aspirations of the African people for security and prosperity. During his visits, King Mohammed VI presided over the signing of a range of trade, investment, and security agreements with both countries, and joint ventures with the public and private sectors. His next stop is in Gabon, to meet with President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

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