France reiterates its support for Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara

Morocco  AFP - Fadel Senna
© AFP - Fadel Senna

France's foreign minister Stephane Séjourne has reiterated Paris' "clear and constant" support for Morocco's autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, during a visit to Rabat.

French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné, who arrived in Rabat on Sunday evening, said that he had been "personally" commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron to work towards closer relations with Morocco.

"This visit is a major step towards opening a new chapter in the relationship between our two countries", a diplomatic source explained.

During a press conference on Monday, alongside his counterpart, Nasser Bourita, the French foreign minister said of the Western Sahara: "This is an existential issue for Morocco. We know that [...]. It is now time to move forward. I will see to it personally", also announcing his desire to build a partnership with Morocco for the next 30 years.

Diplomatic tensions
The last visit by a French foreign minister dates back more than a year. In December 2022, Catherine Colonna went to Rabat to announce the end of visa restrictions to France. But there was no significant improvement between the two countries in the following weeks.

A vote by the European Parliament in January 2023 condemning the deterioration in press freedom in Morocco added to the diplomatic tensions.

In response, Morocco terminated the mission of its ambassador in Paris.

Relations seemed to have reached an dead end until the French ambassador to Morocco issued a public mea culpa in October. A new Moroccan ambassador to France was then appointed.

'New political agenda'
On the French side, the revelations by the Forbidden Stories media group, according to which the phone numbers of Emmanuel Macron and ministers were targeted in 2019 by Morocco, were not much appreciated.

In September, a new controversy arose when France offered aid to Morocco, hit by an earthquake, which Rabat ignored.

Séjourné's visit is therefore a first step "towards a new political agenda, in all areas, with shared priorities", said a diplomatic source.

(with AFP)