Despite frosty diplomatic relations, France is ready to help Moroccan earthquake
Paris and Rabat have a political rift that has caused France to offer €5 million to support disaster relief efforts
According to France’s foreign minister, it is up to Moroccan authorities whether to seek French assistance in the wake of its deadliest earthquake in more than six decades.
The French government pledged €5 million (£4.3 million) to aid organizations in the north African country, where at least 2,500 people have died and 2,400 have been injured. Maroc will decide who it officially asks for assistance from.
It has been years since Paris and Rabat had diplomatic relations that were glacial, and Morocco’s decision to accept assistance from only four countries – the UK, Spain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – is seen as an indication of a political rift as well as a personal dispute between President Emmanuel Macron and King Mohammed VI.
The controversy is inappropriate, Colonna told BFM TV. “People are suffering, people need help.” Morocco needs our help. The decision belongs to Morocco alone, and it is its right to determine what it needs.”
NGOs already active in the disaster zone will receive the €5 million aid.
Macron has expressed France’s willingness to send aid to Morocco several times since the magnitude 7 earthquake struck overnight on Friday and Saturday. No official response has been received.
Rabat has previously accused Macron of prioritizing good relations with Algeria over Rabat’s.
According to Middle Eastern analysts, Macron is “obsessed” with improving ties with Algeria, its former colony, at the cost of good relations with Morocco. Rabat and France are at odds over what Rabat considers France’s lack of support for Morocco’s sovereignty claim over western Sahara. A group seeking independence for the desert area, the Polisario Front, is supported by Algeria.
Unlike Algeria, Macron made his first north African state visit to Morocco, a former French protectorate, in 2017. However, the relationship has cooled since then.
In 2021, France announced that it would restrict visas for Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians unless they took back migrants, viewed as a deliberate humiliation. Rabat was accused of spying on Macron via his mobile phone after the number was discovered in Pegasus project data, a charge the king denied.
According to the Guardian, the leaked Pegasus project database includes the mobile phone numbers of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and 13 other heads of state and government.
There are also names of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan in the data, which includes diplomats, military chiefs, and senior politicians from 34 countries.
An appearance on the leaked list of numbers does not imply that it has been hacked or attempted to be hacked by the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group. According to NSO, the database is irrelevant to its business.
Rabat accused France of orchestrating a vote condemning the threat to Moroccan press freedom in the European parliament this year, further deteriorating relations. Their ambassadors have been withdrawn from both countries.
Rabat responded that relations between the two governments and/or the palace and the Élysée are “neither friendly nor good” after Macron said his relationship with the king was “friendly”.
It was reported Sunday that Moroccan authorities were preventing French rescue teams from entering the country, which were prepared to provide emergency aid. Volunteers from Nice, Lyon and Saint-Etienne flew to Morocco this weekend.
According to Arnaud Fraisse, head of Secouristes sans Frontières, aid workers had hoped to fly to Morocco on Sunday. “Unfortunately, we still don’t have the Moroccan government’s approval,” he said.
According to foreign ministry figures, France has more than 51,000 citizens living in Morocco. Approximately 1.5 million Moroccans live in France, including 670,000 dual nationals, according to the Observatory for Immigration and Demographics. Morocco is a “brotherly” country that can cope with the rescue efforts alone, said French interior minister Gérald Darmanin on Monday.
The news reference is TheGuardians