Morocco’s Acceptance of Aid is a Sovereign Choice. \ Newslooks \ Washington DC \ Opinion . On September 8, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Morocco’s Al Houz region near Marrakesh, leaving around three thousand dead and over five thousand injured across the country. What the Moroccans have had to endure this month has been beyond horrendous. Frightening and horrific stories told by survivors have shaken us all. As Morocco suffers from its deadliest earthquake since the February 1960 quake in Agadir, there has been an outpouring of compassion and solidarity from people worldwide.
Authorities in Rabat have assessed Morocco’s aid requirements and recognized the need to coordinate all relief efforts prior to accepting any foreign assistance in the wake of this month’s earthquake. Thus far, Morocco has accepted offers from four friendly countries to send search and rescue teams from four countries: Spain, the United Kingdom, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Because Morocco has not accepted assistance from other countries such as France there have been many narratives pushed in the media’s information sphere, serving to politicize the tragic situation.
“Generally speaking, following a catastrophe like this one, a country needs to assess what kind of aid it needs on the very short term according to its own capacity and keeping in mind the necessity to functionally and productively coordinating all forces on the ground—namely on a territory which is far from being huge,” Lorena Stella Martini, advocacy and communications assistant at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Newslooks.
“Taking [these] paramount, technical matters into consideration, from a diplomatic point of view, it looks like in the wake of this crisis Rabat has decided to surround itself with countries it perceives to be very close and towards which it feels an affinity. But to be honest I would not read this as a message of hostility towards the others,” added Martini.
Morocco’s Acceptance of Aid
Morocco’s choice to accept aid from Spain was no surprise. Of course, there is much to say about geographic proximity. But political and diplomatic factors are in play too. Since the return of warmth in Moroccan Spanish relations in March 2022 and the reset of bilateral ties in February at a summit in Rabat, relations between the two countries have warmed significantly.
Morocco values its relationship with Spain, which recently reversed its decades-long stance on the Sahara conflict to support Morocco’s autonomy proposal. Madrid’s shift vis-à-vis the Sahara issue is important to Morocco’s national security interests. Within the context of this month’s crisis, Rabat turning to Madrid for assistance illustrates how much the North African kingdom values its relationship with Spain and would like to see more European capitals follow in Madrid’s footsteps in terms of backing Morocco’s autonomy proposal.
Morocco United Kingdom.
Morocco accepting assistance from the United Kingdom speaks to the extent to which Rabat-London relations have strengthened since the signing of the UK-Morocco association agreement in December 2019. “While there have been claims that the acceptance of UK’s aid might be motivated by Rabat’s will to strengthen the partnership with a not-EU country, and to take the distance from France, I would rather focus on the strong relationship between London and Rabat, and on the will to enhance the cooperation with the UK,” commented Martini.
Morocco UAE, Qatar.
Qatar and the UAE being the other countries that Morocco has accepted aid from following this month’s earthquake is easy to understand given the history of close ties between Rabat and these two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Over the decades, Qatar and the UAE, in alignment with the other four GCC members, have sided with Rabat in the Sahara conflict.
“Morocco has been in one [way] or another building for itself a particular direction in its international alliances and it is heavily based on the Sahara issue. States that do recognize Rabat’s ownership over the Sahara are recognized as allies, and states that do not do so are considered enemies that should not be collaborated with.” Explained Zeidon Alkinani, a non-resident fellow at Arab Center Washington DC, in an interview with Newslooks..
Indeed, it is no secret that Morocco’s relationship with France has been troubled in recent years. France’s refusal to join the US and Israel in recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, the warming of French-Algerian relations, and migration issues have contributed to rising levels of friction between Rabat and Paris. The problems in the North African kingdom’s relationship with France have received significant attention in the international media in light of the September 8 earthquake in Morocco. However, some experts caution against reading too much into problems in French Moroccan relations amid this period of “earthquake diplomacy” playing out this month.
“I would refrain from considering Morocco’s lack of acceptance of humanitarian aid from France as a milestone or a further step in the framework of tensions between the two countries,” Martini told Newslooks.
“As of today, I think this would mean stretching the reading of what is happening. In my opinion, what we could draw from this is that France is not in the closest, priority relational circle for Morocco right now. But this is something we already knew, and I would not go further than that.”
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