Western sahara Major events
US News & World Report
By Patrick Markey and Samia Errazzouki
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for new talks on the decades-old Western Sahara conflict, saying negotiations should address proposals from both Morocco and the Polisario independence movement.
The U.N. call for a restart to talks came after months of tensions in the disputed territory, which Polisario says belongs to the Sahrawi people who fought a guerrilla war against Moroccan rule until a 1991 U.N.-backed ceasefire.
U.N. efforts have repeatedly failed to broker a settlement over the desert territory, contested since 1975 when the colonial power Spain left.
“I intend to propose that the negotiating process be relaunched with a new dynamic and a new spirit,” the U.N. chief said in his report presented for review to the Security Council on Monday.
“For progress to be made, the negotiations must be open to both parties’ proposals and ideas. Algeria and Mauritania, as neighboring countries, can and should make important contributions to this process.”
In initial reactions, a Moroccan foreign ministry source called the U.N. report more objective in tone than past ones, while a Polisario representative said the Sahrawi movement was ready for talks that were serious and without preconditions.
The UN report said talks must aim for a mutually acceptable political solution over the ultimate status of Western Sahara, including through agreement on “the nature and form of the exercise of self-determination”.
The 1991 ceasefire called for a U.N.-supported referendum on the region’s future, including the possibility of independence. The vote never happened.
Morocco has since made its own proposal for autonomy under the kingdom’s sovereignty, but Polisario insists on the U.N. referendum.
“The fundamental difficulty is that each party has a different vision and reading of the history and documents that surround this conflict,” the report said.
Last year, Morocco clashed with the U.N. over its MINURSO peacekeeping mission after former U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon visited Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. Rabat kicked out dozens of MINURSO staff from the Western Sahara, saying Ban was biased.
“The tone has clearly changed, and the parameters have taken into consideration a realistic approach that demonstrates the will to protect a certain degree of objectivity,” the foreign ministry source said of the new report, noting also the call for neighboring countries to participate.
“Everything has its time,” the source said when asked about whether the report would lead to participation in talks.
Polisario insists on the referendum with independence as an option and says only Morocco and Polisario should be at the negotiating table.
A Polisario representative said talks should not abandon progress made by former U.N. Western Sahara envoy Christopher Ross, who resigned last month.
“First MINURSO should return, and should be able to do its work to prepare the referendum,” the representative said. “We hope the new envoy will continue with what Ross started and not start from the beginning again.”
Since the end of fighting Western Sahara has effectively been split in two, part controlled by Morocco and part by Polisario forces, divided by a heavily mined earthen berm.
Last year, tensions spiked during a standoff in the remote Guerguerat area. U.N. peacekeepers stepped in after Moroccan gendarmerie went outside Moroccan-controlled areas in what they said was a road-clearing operation, prompting the mobilization of Polisario forces.
Morocco in February said it had withdrawn its troops from the buffer zone but Polisario says it will remain in the area as a precaution.
In his report, the U.N. chief called on the Security Council to “urge” the Polisario to “fully and unconditionally” withdraw from the Guerguerat buffer strip, noting that the “risk of an incident or accident remains high.”
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Andrew Roche)
by Richard Bell
Air Arabia Maroc is set to introduce a new route between Manchester and Morocco this winter.
From October, the low-cost carrier will fly twice weekly between the North West and Agadir, a city and beach resort located on the southern Atlantic coast of Morocco.
Air Arabia Maroc confirmed it will operate the service every Thursday and Sunday with an Airbus A320.
Adel Al Ali, Air Arabia’s group chief exec, said: “We look forward to connecting Manchester with Agadir and we are confident that this step will further cater to the needs of our growing customer base.
“Agadir offers a great tourism experience year around with its unique beaches, mountains, golf resorts and excellent dining options.”
The deal will make Manchester the only UK airport outside London served by the airline.
Stephen Turner, the airport’s commercial director, commented: “It’s great news that Air Arabia Maroc will start flights to Agadir from Manchester this winter.
“Agadir is a great beach resort that also offers fantastic access to the Atlas Mountains.“
He added: “This route will provide the 22m people in our catchment area with further choice on how to reach this exciting destination.“
The European Tour is back in business this week when the Trophee Hassan II is played at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat in Morocco, the event being played for the seventh consecutive year but the prize money has jumped by €1 million euro to €2,500,000.
The European Tour event will be played concurrently with the Ladies European Tour event, the Lalla Meryem Cup, although the LET event is to be played on the 36-hole venue’s alternate layout, the Blue Course.
Similar concepts have been adopted on the Japan Tour and the Australasian Tour where men’s and women’s events are played at the same venue and, in the case of the Australian events, the men’s and women’s Victorian Opens at Thirteenth Beach, are actually played on the same layouts.
The Ladies European Tour event pales in comparison in terms of prize-money with the women playing for only €450,000.
The increase in prize money for the men has not really worked in terms of attracting a stronger field and the event’s position in the schedule the week after the Masters makes it difficult to attract any of the game’s elite.
Australians currently entered in the Trophee Hassan II are Wade Ormsby, Richard Green and Nathan Holman.
Ormsby has a strong record in the event with two top-10s from two previous appearances, has shown improved form in recent starts and the chance to play a venue that he clearly enjoys might help to continue his improvement.
Holman is in Morocco for the first time and has missed five of six cuts in 2017 and will need a significant turnaround.
Defending champion, Korea’s Jeunhung Wang, is the leading world-ranked player in the field (48th) having also won the Mauritius Open and Qatar Masters in the last 12 months in addition to a runner-up finish at the Nedbank Challenge.
21-year-old Wang is considered one of the game’s rising stars and his return to the scene of his first European Tour victory will be watched with interest despite his missed cut last week at the Masters.
Amongst the field for the Lalla Meryem Cup, Suzann Pettersen is the standout especially given her impressive recent showing at the ANA Inspiration.
Australians Whitney Hillier, Sarah Kemp, Stacey Peters and rookie Celina Yuan are also in the field.
PLAYER PROFILE: SARAH KEMP
About The Author : Bruce Young
A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce’s extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia’s leading golf journalists and commentators.
The North Africa Post
“17 employees of the civilian component of the MINURSO are preparing to join their offices in the UN mission’s headquarters in Laayoune,” a source that requested not to be named told Moroccan news website, le360.
The same source added that “talks between Morocco and the new UN Secretary General created common ground concerning the return of the 17 UN employees.”
In March 2016, Morocco expelled the 84 international civilian personnel staffed on MINURSO, after verbal blunders by the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who visited the separatist rear-base of Tindouf where he referred to Morocco’s retrieval of its southern provinces as “occupation”.
The MINURSO was established following an UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991 that put an end to a guerrilla war waged by the Algerian-based Polisario front on Moroccan troops. The UN mission was tasked with organizing a referendum, which never took place because of disagreements over who is eligible to vote. Ceasefire monitoring remains the main task of the MINURSO.
After more than a decade of failed attempts to organize a referendum on the status of Western Sahara, the UN decided in 2002 to abandon the idea and instead pursue a negotiated political solution to the conflict. In 2007, Morocco proposed a compromise solution based on broad autonomy for the Sahara under its sovereignty.
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North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.
Source: Xinhua Editor: ying
Morocco continues to attract green funds as the first Green Climate Fund (GCF) agreed to contribute to the financing of a new water conservation project in Morocco worth 207 million US dollars, local media reported on Friday.
The program is also financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with 127 million US dollars and the Moroccan government with 47 million U.S. dollars.
It consists of building a 135 km primary transmission pipe from the Mdez dam to the Saiss plain in Northern Morocco.
The project’s objective is to replace water abstraction from the local aquifer and water resources of the Saiss plain, which is currently over exploited.
(The following statement was released by the rating agency) HONG KONG, April 07 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Morocco’s Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at ‘BBB-‘ with a Stable Outlook. The issue ratings on Morocco’s senior unsecured foreign- and local-currency bonds have also been affirmed at ‘BBB-‘.
The Country Ceiling has been affirmed at ‘BBB’ and the Short-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency IDRs at ‘F3’. KEY RATING DRIVERS Morocco’s ratings are driven by its economic performance, public finance and external finance metrics in line with ‘BBB’ medians and structural features (as reflected in development and governance indicators) that are weaker than peer medians. Economic policy focuses on maintaining macroeconomic stability and is unlikely to change much as a result of the parliamentary election in October 2016.
The Justice and Development Party (PJD), the main governing party in the previous parliamentary term, remained the biggest party but differences between parties meant it took until March 2017 for a new government to be formed. The main parties in the new government are the same and there is little indication that the addition of one smaller party will change the direction of policy. However, the prolonged negotiation has meant little progress was made on reform projects under the care taking government and it is likely that the reform momentum will take some time to return. GDP growth fell to 1.6% in 2016, from 4.5% in 2015, mainly because of the worst drought in 30 years following a bumper harvest in 2015.
As a result, cereal production fell by more than 70% and agricultural value added decreased by 9.6%. Confidence effects from the weak agricultural performance and low growth in the euro area as the key export market depressed the non-agricultural economy, which grew 3.1%, after 3.5% in 2015, illustrating the limited effect of the industrial strategy on growth so far. Rainfall for the 2017 agricultural season has been favourable, suggesting that there will be a significant rebound in the agricultural sector and this should help lift growth to 4.3% in 2017. In 2018, base effects will no longer boost GDP growth, leading to a deceleration to 3.2%. Despite the weakening economy, the central government deficit decreased to 4.1% in 2016, from 4.3% in 2015, although it stayed well above the budget target of 3.5%.
Apart from the impact of weaker growth, the under performance relative to the budget reflected a higher execution of investment projects, an acceleration of VAT refund payments and another fall in disbursements of grants from GCC countries. The budget for 2017, submitted to parliament in October, foresaw a deficit of 3% of GDP, but due to the lower starting point we expect the deficit will come in at 3.8% of GDP. The improvements will partly reflect the economic recovery, although the tax take from the agricultural sector is quite small. In addition, improved budget administration as a result of the Organic Budget Law (OBL) will also help to contain expenditure. Fitch estimates that the fiscal deficit of the general government, which also includes social security, local governments and special treasury accounts, was 1.7% of GDP in 2016, down from 1.8% in 2015, with a further decline to 1.3% in 2017.
In addition to the improved central government, the improvement reflects the impact of pension reforms approved last year. The delay in forming a new government and in approving the budget for 2017 has had only limited impact on fiscal execution. The OBL has streamlined fiscal management for periods where no approved budget is in place, and under a government decree the draft budget 2017 is being implemented with the exception of civil service recruitment and the implementation of new projects. Fitch estimates general government debt peaked at 49.6% of GDP in 2016 and is likely to decline gradually in subsequent years. The government faces significant additional contingent liabilities from guarantees mainly for infrastructure projects managed by state-owned enterprises, estimated at 19% of GDP in 2016.
The guarantee exposure is expected to continue rising moderately, but the track record suggests a low likelihood that the liabilities will move to the government balance sheet. The current account deficit deteriorated substantially in 2016 to 3.9% of GDP, from 2.1% in 2015 despite the beneficial effect of lower oil prices. The deterioration primarily reflected a sharp rise in capital goods imports, which rose by 27% in MAD terms. The deficit was also affected by soft prices for phosphates and phosphates-based fertilisers, one of Morocco’s main export commodities (accounting for 18% of exports). We expect the government’s policy of attracting foreign investment to lead to a continued high demand for capital goods, but the deficit should gradually decline as growth in exports will remain solid. This could help net external debt, which at 11.5% of GDP remains higher than the BBB median of 0.6% of GDP end-2016, to decline gradually.
However, significant capital inflows meant that the Bank al-Mahgrib was able to raise international reserves USD2.3 billion to USD24.4 billion or 6.5 months of current external payments at end-2016. The currency is considered to be broadly aligned with fundamentals and the authorities are still planning to gradually move to a more flexible exchange rate arrangement. Fitch believes this will initially only mean wider fluctuation against the currency basket against which the dirham is pegged. Capital account liberalisation, reducing restrictions on Moroccan investments abroad, will be phased in only gradually. Development and governance indicators are weaker than ‘BBB’ medians. In particular, GDP per capita and the World Bank’s human development indicator are lower than both the ‘BBB’ and the ‘BB’ category medians. Exposure to financial shocks is moderate, due to a developed and broadly sound banking sector.
SOVEREIGN RATING MODEL (SRM) and QUALITATIVE OVERLAY (QO) Fitch’s proprietary SRM assigns Morocco a score equivalent to a rating of ‘BBB-‘ on the Long-Term FC IDR scale. Fitch’s sovereign rating committee did not adjust the output from the SRM to arrive at the final LT FC IDR. Fitch’s SRM is the agency’s proprietary multiple regression rating model that employs 18 variables based on three year centred averages, including one year of forecasts, to produce a score equivalent to a LT FC IDR. Fitch’s QO is a forward-looking qualitative framework designed to allow for adjustment to the SRM output to assign the final rating, reflecting factors within our criteria that are not fully quantifiable and/or not fully reflected in the SRM.
RATING SENSITIVITIES The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch’s assessment that upside and downside risks to the rating are currently balanced. The main factors that may, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action are: – Continued fiscal consolidation and reduction in public debt-to-GDP – Structural improvement in the current account balance consistent with declining net external debt to GDP – Over the medium term, improvement in development indicators illustrating rising debt tolerance The main factors that may, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action are: – A widening of twin deficits, leading to rising public and external debt burdens – A weakening of medium-term growth prospects – Political and security developments that affect macroeconomic performance KEY ASSUMPTIONS Fitch assumes that Brent crude prices will average USD52.5/b in 2017 and USD55/b in 2018. Fitch assumes that the eurozone economy will grow by 1.7% in 2017 and 1.6% in 2018.
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By Samia Errazzouki
Morocco’s Credit Immobilier et Hotelier (CIH) bank is positioning for growth as the North African country prepares to introduce a more flexible exchange rate system and expand its Islamic banking sector, its chief executive said.
As part of financial reforms, the kingdom is preparing to introduce a flexible exchange rate system this year, including possibly widening the official bands for fluctuation of the dirham by around 5 percent as a first phase.
Earlier this year, Morocco’s Central Bank also approved requests to open Islamic Banks, including regulatory approval for CIH, who has partnered with Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) to open its Islamic bank dubbed Umnia Bank. “I can announce that our Islamic bank is ready to go, we are simply waiting for its birth certificate to be released in the Official Bulletin to begin the activities,” CIH CEO Ahmed Rahhou told Reuters in an interview.
CIH’s assets make up less than 5 percent of Morocco’s banking sector, reporting a 434.5 million dirham ($43.12 million) net profit in 2016. Earlier this year, Fitch rated CIH BB+ with a stable outlook, the bank’s first rating from Fitch. CIH and its majority shareholder, Caisse de Depot de Gestion (CDG), a public sector establishment, will hold 60 percent of the shares in Umnia Bank, while QIIB will hold the remaining 40 percent shares, Rahhou said.
CIH is among five banks to receive regulatory approval from the Central Bank to open Islamic banks in the country after Morocco long rejected Islamic banking due to concerns about the influence of Islamist movements. Islamic finance is also seen as a way to draw more foreign investment to the domestic financial market. Moroccan dirham exchange rate is currently fixed by a peg that is 60 percent weighted to the euro and 40 percent to the dollar.
The central bank is planning to ease the peg and allow the currency to trade within a narrow range. As an emerging bank, CIH hopes to use the liberalization of Morocco’s currency regime to position itself as a key intermediary between the central bank and the market, the chief executive said. “There will be certified banks authorized by the central bank as intermediaries and we will do all that we can to be among the banks to have this privilege,” Rahhou said.
Economic and financial reforms, including the passing of the budget, were delayed after the country was left without a government for six months due to stalled party negotiations following October’s election. On Wednesday, King Mohammed VI appointed the government under the leadership of Islamist Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani in a coalition of six parties. “The government has to move fast to make up for lost time,” said Mohammed Boussaid, Minister of Finance and Economy.
Morocco has already done more than most North African countries to make tough changes required by international lenders to curb its deficit, such as ending fuel subsidies and freezing public sector hiring. The IMF last year said that it agreed with authorities that the current situation was suitable to move toward a flexible exchange rate and an inflation-targeting regime despite the risks from global financial instability.
(Reporting by Patrick Markey) ((email@example.com; +213-661-692993; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))
Morocco’s economy grew by 4.3 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with 1.7 percent in the same period a year earlier, the official High Commission for Planning said on Thursday.
The commission said in a note on the Moroccan economy that this growth was mainly due to the rise in agricultural output by 12.9 percent in the first quarter this year, up from nine percent last year.
Apart from the agriculture sector, which accounts for more than 15 percent of the country’s economy, the non-agricultural sector grew three pct in the first quarter from a year ago, the commission added.
As for the second quarter of 2017, the official planning agency expects the economy to grow 4.6 percent in compared to 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The Moroccan economy has been hit hard by a drought in the fall of 2015, which compromised the 2016 agriculture production.
The North Africa Post
Morocco was ranked in 2016 fourth in world destination per flights to or from European airports after the United States, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, said Euronews.
In an article on the increasing airport security cooperation between Morocco and Europe, Euronews shed light on the importance of Casablanca’s airport as a hub that hosted 8 million passengers in 2016 and as a bridge between Europe, Africa and Latin America.
The same news outlet noted that at the Casablanca International Airport in Morocco between 150 and 200 flights take off to or from Europe daily.
Morocco, said Euronews, “was also the first non-European state to be fully integrated into the working structures of EUROCONTROL, an international organization for safety in air navigation.”
The same source added that EUROCONTROL experts are often in Morocco to coordinate a common workflow and data exchange with their Moroccan colleagues and to provide better services to airlines and passengers.
Quoting Zouhair Mohammed El Aoufir, CEO, Moroccan Airports Authority, Euronews said that Morocco guarantees air space continuity, with the same standards, safety, fluidity and security between Europe and the rest of the world.
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North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.
Tour Operator Shoretrips Lisa Iannucci
Travelers who take excursions to Morocco often do so to visit the popular cities of Marrakesh and Casablanca.
However, not to be missed is a city that is located two hours away from Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Here lies the ancient city of Volubilis, where the ruins of the once Roman rule now stand.
Volubilis is located at the foot of the Atlas mountains, in the Meknes-Tafilalet region of Morocco. It was founded in the 3rd century B.C., and became an important base of the Roman Empire. In 1997, Volubilis had the distinct honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On your trip to Morocco, let ShoreTrips take you on a trip back in time and see what UNESCO calls ‘one of the richest sites of this period in North Africa, not only for its ruins but also for the great wealth of its epigraphic evidence.”
This wealth was generated from the local olive and wheat field production as well as the export of wild animals to the Coliseum of Rome. As a result, you have the chance to see are many residences of the rich that are still standing and open for visitors. Here you can get a feel for what the lavish area looked like, as well as learn about its history through the multiple mosaics in various buildings.
For example, check out the House of Venus, once home to King Juba II, and the House of Orpheus, which has an exquisite mosaic of Orpheus playing the lute for animals.
It is said that several of Heracles’ (also known as Hercules) feats happened in Volubilis. He had killed his own children and, to expiate the crime, Eurystheus required him to carry out 10 labors.
When he was done, Eurystheus added two more, which became the Twelve Labors of Heracles.
Other sites to see include Volubilis’ House of the Acrobat, which has a mosaic of an athlete winning a race. There are also mosaics that illustrate the Greek and Roman gods of wine, Dionysius and Bacchus, throughout the ruins.
READ MORE: The Best Of Beijing With ShoreTrips
Nearby is the holy city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, named after the man who brought Islam to the Moroccan people. This beautiful city that the faithful tourists pilgrimage to is worth a visit, especially to see the buildings built on the side of the mountain.
For a divine blessing, visit one of the most popular attractions in the area, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknès, a highly regarded architectural site as well. The Mausoleum is named after the ruler who made Meknès his capital city in the 17th century. It is said that a visit to his final resting place is to bring a divine blessing. The Mausoleum also has three brightly decorated courts, a mosque, and the tombs of the sultan and his family.
Start your unforgettable visit to the ruins of Volubilis, Morocco through the entrance of the recently built visitor center.
This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.
The European Union’s leadership, bitter over the British government fulfilling the democratic mandate of its public to exit the European Union, has given Spain veto power over any future relationship between Gibraltar, a British territory, and the European Union.
Spain has long resented British possession of Gibraltar, which an Anglo-Dutch force captured in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession and which Spain ceded to Great Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht seven years later.
Today, just over 32,000 people live in the territory, the vast majority of whom have repeatedly voted overwhelmingly both for their own autonomy and to reject any sharing of sovereignty with Spain.
Spain may very well return to the days when it effectively embargoed Gibraltar, denying easy access to tourists and forcing residents to rely on air links to Great Britain to run their economy. The bureaucrats in Brussels frankly may also cheer on Spain’s punishment of the population and economy of Gibraltar as a means to signal its annoyance with Great Britain for turning its back on the European experiment.
Spain, however, is playing with fire and risks creating a precedent which will burn it several times over. Here’s the problem:
While Spain might object to Great Britain maintaining sovereignty over a 2.6-square-mile territory that Madrid sees as its own, Spain has its own enclaves on the Mediterranean carved out of what should be, but for historical accidents of centuries past, sovereign Moroccan territory.
People entering the British territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, at its border with Spain, in La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain June 24, 2016. Michael Rubin writes that if Spain uses the Brexit negotiations to land grab the Rock, the Spanish colonies in Morocco of Ceuta and Melilla will instantly demand freedom from Spanish rule. Jon Nazca/reuters
Ceuta is only 7 square miles. In 1415, the Portuguese captured Ceuta and, during the next century when Portugal and Spain briefly united, Spaniards flocked to the city. The 1668 Treaty of Lisbon formally ceded Ceuta to Spain to whom it has belonged ever since. Spain, along with France, was a colonial power in Morocco but, in 1956 when Spain withdrew from northern Morocco (it would leave the Western Saharan in 1975), it continued to hold Ceuta.
Related: How Scotland and Northern Ireland could stay in the EU
Melilla, only 4.7 square miles, has a similar history. Spain conquered the city in 1497 and rebuffed subsequent Moroccan political and diplomatic efforts to win it back. Spain may consider it an autonomous territory but, in reality, it is a colonial outpost and an accident of history.
Spain may seek advantage from Brexit going forward in order to reclaim Gibraltar; that’s Madrid’s prerogative. However, so long as Spain continues to hold Ceuta and Melilla, instead of allowing an extension of Moroccan sovereignty, then Spain and the European Union’s case will be both hypocritical and weak.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A former Pentagon official, his major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy.
By Dominic Midgley
It is a tiny coastal enclave, part of a foreign state, surrounded by the country that lost it hundreds of years ago.
As its economy is much healthier than its neighbour, thousands of workers flock across its border every day to work.
And the nation on whose land mass it sits has been desperate to get it back for centuries but the vast majority of the population are virulently opposed to the idea. Sound familiar?
Very probably. However it’s not Gibraltar but Ceuta, a Spanish possession 17 miles across the Mediterranean from the Rock in Morocco. And Spain has not one but two Gibraltar-like enclaves there, with Melilla 250 miles down the coast in exactly the same position.
Their existence throws into sharp relief the hypocrisy of Madrid, which has capitalised on the invoking of Article 50 to reassert its claim to the territory it ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
Voice of America
Morocco’s new Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, center, gives a news conference next to Driss Lachgar, left, of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces party (USFP), Aziz Akhannouch, second left, of the National Rally of Independents (RNI), Mohamed Nabil Benabdallah, third right, of the Progress and Socialism party (PPS), Mohammed Sajid, second right, of the Constitutional Union (UC) party, and Mohand Laenser, right, of the Popular Movement, in Rabat, Morocco, March 25, 2017.
After six months of post-election deadlock, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Wednesday named a new cabinet led by the main Islamist party, which lost a key ministry after protracted negotiations with rivals in the ruling coalition.
The Islamist Justice and Development (PJD) party won elections in October, but the formation of a government was delayed during wrangling with parties who critics say were too close to royalists uneasy with sharing power with Islamists.
Under Moroccan law no party can win an outright majority in the 395-seat parliament, making coalition governments a necessity in a system where the king holds ultimate power despite ceding some authority during protests in 2011.
The PJD’s Saad Eddine El Othmani, a former foreign minister, was appointed premier last month by the king to replace PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane, after his efforts to form a government had been frustrated.
The new cabinet includes members from six political parties.
The PJD, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the Popular Movement (MP), and the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) were in the last government.
Also part of the new cabinet are the Constitutional Union (UC) and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), whose participation became a source of conflict between Islamists and the rival RNI party, led by a close friend of the king.
MAP state news agency said several key ministerial posts remain unchanged and under the control of the RNI, which clashed with the PJD during party talks over its insistence on including the USFP in the coalition. The PJD had resisted under Benkirane.
Aziz Akhannouch, RNI leader and a close friend of the king, remains Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. RNI members Mohammed Boussaid and Moulay Hafid Elalamy remain heads of the Ministry of Finance and Economy and Ministry of Trade and Industry, respectively.
Abdelouafi Laftit, former governor of Rabat and opponent of the PJD, was named Minister of Interior. Former interior minister, Mohammed Hassad, whose tenure saw a testy relationship with Benkirane, was appointed Minister of Education.
The PJD lost its control of the key Ministry of Justice and Public Freedoms, previously led by Mustafa Ramid, who had been critical of the security service’s record during his days as a lawyer and human right activist.
He will remain as Minister of State in charge of human rights.
Critics say since the 2011 reforms, royalists have tried to push back Islamist influence. Dismissing claims of royal interference, the palace says the king maintains an equal distance from all parties.
At the heart of the months-long political crisis were questions about the future direction of the PJD, the region’s last remaining Islamist party in power after the Arab Spring, and its relations with the palace.
Last month, members of the PJD’s national council met to discuss the party’s next steps following the replacement of Benkirane. As party members gathered, Othmani’s modest arrival was eclipsed by Benkirane, who received a hero’s welcome.
For some members of the PJD, Benkirane’s removal was a reflection of resentment toward him personally by other leaders, wary of his charisma.
Benkirane has said his party is living through a tough moment because of divisions over what some party members described in the local media as Othmani’s failure to fully consult with the party’s leadership on the cabinet makeup.
“Whatever may be said about Benkirane now regarding how he approached negotiations, he did maintain a certain advantage in that he refused … any position that would weaken his party’s agenda,” said Intissar Fakir, editor-in-chief of Carnegie’s Sada Journal.
Abdelali Hamieddine, member of the PJD’s general secretariat posted in a tweet before Wednesday’s cabinet announcement that a certain “critical distance from Othmani’s government is needed.”
There is a high threat of terrorism but Irish authorities have not advised against going there.
Agadir: the main resort for tourism due to its pleasant climate
Now that the Canaries are so busy, people have been looking to Morocco as an alternative destination for sun holidays. The one question everyone wants to know is: is it safe?
The advice from both the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the British foreign and commonwealth office is that there is a high threat of terrorism but have not advised against travelling there. Both recommend purchasing fully comprehensive travel insurance.
Like many countries now, including France, Spain and Germany, security services are on high alert. Security personnel may be visible particularly at sites of interest and gatherings of tourists.
In recent years Morocco substantially increased personnel in the security services and antiterrorism operations regularly flush out suspected terrorists. The country works hard to keep you safe, but it is hard to be definitive.
The main resort for tourism is Agadir on the west coast. The climate is very pleasant over the winter and spring and it attracts a lot of European tourists.
There is a very good range of hotels and prices are more competitive than the Canaries. Most people will stay on the resort and enjoy the facilities provided. There are some interesting places to visit but roads are bad and begging is a constant. Always go with a registered guide.
The city of Marrakech is a very interesting place to visit and has a great selection of accommodation to choose from. From Riads, traditional Moroccan houses built around courtyards to luxurious palace-style five-star hotels.
South of Agadir the port town of Essaouira is a popular destination for its great beaches and Moorish history. It is also a place favoured by water sports enthusiasts, because it is windy.
Sunway.ie operates package holidays to Morocco all year and Ryanair fly to Marrakech twice weekly over the winter.
The North Africa Post
French paper, L’Express, highlighted the role played by Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams in boosting Morocco’s clout in the continent and championing a moderate and tolerant Islam against the threat of extremism.
Promoting the lofty values of tolerance inherent to Islam is a praiseworthy endeavor pursued by the Institute in a bid to counter calls for extremism at the local and international level, underscores the French newspaper.
The Institute, located in Rabat, has been offering training to Imams and preachers from different African countries such as Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Chad as well as European countries, including France, adds the same source, noting that 50 Frenchman out of a total of 1195 students are currently receiving training on the genuine precepts of Islam.
The reform of the religious sphere is a key part in Morocco’s counter terrorism strategy. The Institute, which trains Imams, Murshideen and Murshidat (male and female preachers), is a vector of religious diplomacy aiming to counter the terrorist threat that feeds on extremist interpretations of religions with a view to destabilize the region.
The paper also highlights that Morocco is becoming a hub for spreading tolerant Islam, noting that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Minister for Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ahmed Toufiq signed an agreement in 2015 to offer training within the institute to Imams of French mosques.
Morocco also launched the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulemas, an academic institution based in Fez that aims at uniting the efforts of Muslim scholars to promote tolerant Islam and counter extremism and radicalization on the continent.
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Africa Business Magazine
Talk of Africa’s economic potential and successes tends to be dominated by sub-Saharan Africa’s leading economies.
While the likes of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa grab the headlines, North Africa’s economic role on the continent is routinely omitted. The lack of attention paid to the region reflects a traditional disconnect, symbolised geographically by the Sahara desert.
Political and economic ties between the North’s leading economies and their sub-Saharan peers have historically been, at best, limited. While there has been some activity from Egypt in recent years, notably hosting a major investment summit in Sharm El Sheikh last February, Morocco is redefining the continent’s North–South relations.
Fresh off readmission to the African Union (AU) during its 28th summit in Ethiopia last month, the country’s leader King Mohammed VI has just returned from Ghana, meeting the country’s new president Nana Akufo-Addo, rounded off by the signing of 20 memorandums of understanding on deepening economic ties. It has become a familiar routine for the monarch, who has toured much of the continent in the past year promoting the merits of partnership with the kingdom. Other countries visited include Rwanda, Nigeria, Zambia and Ethiopia.
While rejoining the AU was a major driver of the charm offensive – a break from a historical focus on Europe – its continental strategy goes much further. Moroccan companies, especially banks, have been investing south of the Sahara for years. Today, an estimated 85% of the country’s foreign direct investment is in the region.
The country is also driving Africa’s sustainability agenda, positioning itself as arguably the leader in promoting green investment and development. It is building the world’s largest solar power plant, the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, or Noor.
Phase one is already active, and when complete, the project will have a total generating capacity of 580MW. This is backed up by a growing global profile. In December Morocco hosted Cop 22, the UN’s annual, global climate change summit, the first in Africa.
All of this is good news for the continent. The disconnect between North and sub-Saharan Africa is nonsensical, undermining regional integration efforts and costing Africa in lost investment and trading opportunities. Not to mention its corrosive effect on any claims to pan-Africanism.
Everything about Morocco’s Africa push suggests it is part of a long-term vision. With some luck the kingdom’s lead on bridging the divide will encourage its northern peers to step up their efforts as well. There is much to gain.
Aside from the obvious need for more trade between North and South, Morocco is arguably also well positioned as a regional and continental hub for trade and investment to and from Europe. The potential for North African commercial centres like Casablanca and Cairo to perform such a role is virtually unexplored, for no good reason
The Italian movie “Indivisibili” by Edoardo De Angelis won late on Saturday the Grand Prix Tamouda d’or, the top prize at the 23rd International Mediterranean Film Festival in Morocco.
The French director Benedicte Pagnot claimed the top prize in documentary competition with her work “Islam pour memoire.”
China, as the guest of honor for this festival, also took numerous Chinese movies to the screen, which reflecting various areas of China’s film industry.
Among the movies, which will be screened during the festival, there are Wu Ershan’s movie “Mojin: The Lost Legend,” Dante Lam’s “Operation Mekong,” Xu Haofeng’s “The Master” and Cao Baoping’s “The Dead End.”
The official competition of the festival, held in Morocco’s northern city of Tetouan, includes 24 films from 15 Mediterranean countries, including 12 feature films and 12 documentary films.
The jury of the feature films will be presided by the Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah, while the documentary jury will be headed by French screen writer Thomas Bauer.
Established in 1985, the Tetouan International Film Festival focuses on the promotion of films from Mediterranean countries, and it is gaining influence as a major project in Morocco.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI launched Saturday in the southern province of Ouarzazate the fourth and final stage of Noor Ouarzazate, the world’s largest solar plant.
The Noor Ouarzazate IV power station, spanned over an area of 137 hectares (1.37 square km), will be set up with over 75 million U.S. dollars with photovoltaic (PV) technology.
The power station, scheduled to start operating in the first quarter of 2018, will be built as part of a partnership involving the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (Masen), and a consortium of private operators led by the Saudi Arabian Acwa Power group and German development bank KfW.
While the first station has started operating in 2016, the second and third power stations of Noor solar complex have reached a completion rate of 76 and 74 percent respectively.
The mega project will generate 582 megawatts and provide electricity to over a million homes when completed by 2020.
The plant represents a critical step in the Moroccan Solar Energy Program, which aims to generate 42 percent of its electricity needs through renewable energy by 2020 and 52 percent by 2030.