Morocco-Russia: Water in the gas?

It is, apparently, only a matter of “changes in the agenda of his Excellency the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov”, which are themselves “due to changes in the agenda of his Excellency Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation”. Nevertheless, the explanation given by the Russian embassy in Cairo to legitimise its request for the postponement to “November or December 2021” of the Forum of Russian-Arab Cooperation which was to take place on 28 October 2021 in Rabat leaves many observers thinking that there is rather a crisis brewing with Moscow.

What “an official at the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs” quoted on October 13, 2021 by the electronic newspaper Le360 denied, arguing that “a new date for its holding will be decided on Friday, October 15” 2021 and that “the cooperation forum (…) is therefore maintained, [that] it will take place in Morocco. Nevertheless, if doubt persists, it is not completely wrong. The reason for this is Russia’s pro-Algerian position with regard to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara, whose separation it now openly supports.

about the December 10, 2020 recognition by the United States of Morocco’s sovereignty over the region, the director of the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, had, thus, pronounced herself, on June 10, 2021, in favor of the organization of a so-called “referendum”, without ever having been subsequently taken back by her hierarchy.

“We considered the decision of the American administration as undermining the generally recognised international legal framework for the settlement of the Western Sahara issue (sic),” she justified. The next day, the Algerian side was pleased to see that “Moscow reiterates its position in favour of international legality”, according to the official agency Algeria Press Service (APS).

Already mired in a crisis with Germany and Spain precisely in relation to the non-respect of its territorial integrity, Morocco will not make any official reaction, but one can imagine that questions remain and that the ambassador of the Kingdom in Moscow, Lotfi Bouchaara, must certainly have raised some of them during the talks he had on 7 October 2021 with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Verchinin, ‘in the light of the forthcoming examination of [the] question [of the Moroccan Sahara] in the [Security] Council of this month’ of October 2021, although nothing really filtered out from their exchanges.

In addition to the postponement of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, flights between Morocco and Russia have also been suspended since October 5, 2021, without any real reason being given – various media sources have mentioned the pandemic situation relating to the spread of Covid-19 in the Eurasian country, but in the absence of official confirmation this is, for the time being, only speculation.

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