Moroccan royal advisor Fouad Ali El Himma and minister of foreign affairs Nasser Bourita visited the Saudi capital of Riyadh on February 26 and met with Saudi crown prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS). They conveyed a message from King Mohammed VI reaffirming the monarch’s wish to develop partnerships between Rabat and Riyadh in all areas. This meeting comes after tensions between the two countries escalated after Morocco withdrew its military contribution to the Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen. In February 2019, the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya news channel described the Polisario Front as the exclusive representative of the Sahrawi people in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, setting off a diplomatic row that led to the recall of the Moroccan ambassador to Saudi Arabia for several weeks.
Why It Matters
Saudi Arabia is a large contributor of foreign investment in Morocco and the surrounding Maghreb. This visit indicates an effort to improve relations between the two countries, which will be needed in mediation efforts regarding the war in Libya, as Saudi competitors like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates continue to support the warlord, Khalifa Haftar. The ability to leverage Morocco’s influence on Saudi Arabia could help put pressure on other Gulf States to pull back from negatively influencing conflicts on African soil.
The Saudi press reports that the visit by Mohammed VI’s envoys is a prelude to an upcoming royal visit to Saudi Arabia. There has also been diplomatic overtures from Algeria and Mauritania, several weeks before a planned summit between the African Union and the Arab League.