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Morocco cuts contact with German embassy – reports

March 2, 2021

Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita has cited "deep disagreements" with Germany over Berlin's stance on Western Sahara, according to local media.

The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita.
Morocco has received criticism from the United Nations and the European Union for its annexation of Western Sahara Image: Getty Images/AFP/F. Senna

Morocco is suspending "all contact" with the German embassy in Rabat over Berlin's stance on the Western Sahara region, local media reported late Monday.

In December, Germany criticized then-US President Donald Trump for recognizing Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita reportedly asked the government to suspend communications with all German entities in Rabat, citing "deep disagreements" with Berlin.

What has the reaction been in Germany?

German politician Ulrich Lechte of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) told DW that the decision to cut ties would have come from the Moroccan king.

"Exactly what the motivation was first has to be clarified," said Lechte, who is also the deputy head of the parliamentary group on the Mahgreb states. 

"We suspect that it is Germany and the European Union's stance on the issue of Western Sahara." 

Ulrich Lechte
Ulrich Lechte says Morocco's move was clearly meant to send message to GermanyImage: Petra Homeier

After Trump recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, Germany called a UN Security Council meeting on the issue.

"That, of course, was not in Morocco's interest," Lechte said. "At the moment, Morocco would very much like the European Union and Germany, as one of the strongest states, to simply recognize Trump's measures."

What is the Berlin conference on Libya?

According to media reports, a senior diplomat said that Rabat was also cutting ties in response to not receiving an invitation to an international meeting hosted by Berlin last yearto address the situation in Libya.

Germany invited heads of state from counties involved in the conflict in Libya and representatives of the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League.

Morocco then said it was surprised at not receiving an invitation to the conference. Rabat added that it had played an essential role in the international efforts to end the conflict in Libya.

What is the dispute over Western Sahara?

Morocco has occupied the Western Sahara area on the Atlantic coast of northwest Africa since 1975. It was previously a Spanish colony.

The Polisario Front, an Algerian-backed independence movement, has long called for a vote on Western Sahara's self-determination.

The pro-independence front represents the local Sahrawi population, which has fought Morocco over the territory for years.

A 1991 ceasefire gave the Polisario Front control over a strip in the east and south of Western Sahara that borders Algeria to the northeast and extends to the southwest's Atlantic coast.

The Polisario has declared the area the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

A map showing Western Sahara

How has Western Sahara affected Moroccan diplomacy? 

Since 2019, Morocco has allowed states to open their diplomatic services in Western Sahara under their mission to Rabat.

In 2018, Morocco cut diplomatic ties with Iran, citing its support for the Polisario Front. 

Rabat also expelled at least 70 UN staffers in 2016 after then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara as an "occupation."

fb/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)