Western sahara Major events

UN Chief Wants New Talks In 40-year Western Sahara Impasse

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 04/12/2017 - 10:47

The Washington post
By Reda Zaireg | AP

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he wants renewed negotiations to resolve the Western Sahara conflict, which has pitted Morocco against the Polisario Front independence movement for 40 years.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council this week, Guterres proposed relaunching the negotiations “with a new dynamic and a new spirit.”

The goal, he said, should be reaching “a mutually acceptable political solution” that would include “an accord on the nature and form that the exercise of self-determination” would take for the disputed and mineral-rich Western Sahara area.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front. The U.N. brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor it and to help prepare a referendum on the territory’s future that has never taken place.

What’s next for Algeria?

The North African country looks toward the future of energy, tourism, diplomacy and industry.  Morocco considers the Western Sahara its “southern provinces” and has proposed giving the territory wide-ranging autonomy. The Polisario Front insists on self-determination through a referendum for the local population, which it estimates at between 350,000 and 500,000.

Guterres said in the report that he hopes to start new negotiations “on the basis of consultations with the parties and neighboring states, members of the Friends of Western Sahara Group and the Security Council as well as other important parties.”

Morocco’s government wants Algeria to be involved in any future talks and considers the neighboring North African country a party to the conflict. Algeria says it is not directly involved in the conflict and supports the U.N. process.

The U.N. chief expressed concern about the tense situation in Guerguerat, a town in the buffer zone on the Morocco-Mauritanian border, and asked the Polisario to “pull out completely and unconditionally” from the site.

Morocco Dismantles ISIS-Linked Cell

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 04/12/2017 - 06:26

News 24

The Moroccan authorities said on Wednesday that they had dismantled a “terrorist cell” that was recruiting volunteers for the Islamic State group.

The ISIS-affiliated cell, which was active in the northern city of Fez and nearby town of Moulay Yacoub, had seven members, an interior ministry statement said.

They “recruited and sent Moroccan volunteers to Iraq and Syria” where the jihadist group holds territory, it said.

Police seized bladed weapons, military uniforms, money and electronic equipment during the raid.

The authorities have regularly announced the dismantling of ISIS cells and arrest of suspected jihadist recruiters in recent months.

The kingdom has been spared deadly jihadist attacks since a 2011 bombing in the central city of Marrakesh which killed 17 people, mainly European tourists.

Why Did The Arab Spring Fail? No Democracy Without Women’s Rights

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 17:00

By University of Gothenburg

Study demonstrates that countries do not become fully democratic without political and social rights for women.

Why did the Arab spring fail? Despite a number of revolutions in the Arab world, in the end only Tunisia emerged as a functioning democracy. Results from an interdisciplinary research project at the University of Gothenburg indicate that the problem might be traced partially to the lack of women’s civil rights in the region.

A new study published in the European Journal of Political Research discusses the importance of women’s rights for countries to become democratic. The researchers used a dataset developed by V-Dem, a research institution cohosted by the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) and the University of Notre Dame (USA). The dataset includes the state of democracy in 177 countries over the years 1900 to 2012.

The study demonstrates that countries do not become fully democratic without political and social rights for women. This is particularly true for the Arab Spring countries, where the failure to foster women’s rights compromised any attempt at democratic governance in the area.

According to Professor Staffan Lindberg, director of the V-Dem Institute, the result is important because it shows that democratic development is not gender blind: societies transitioning from authoritarian regimes strongly need women in order to develop functioning democratic governments.

Consistent pattern

The study revealed that civil rights for both men and women – rights to own property, freedom of speech and movement, and freedom from forced labor – were always present at a high level before constitutional rights were implemented. This pattern can be observed in almost all cases of successful democratization from 1900 onward in the 177 countries investigated.

“Our results clearly indicate the importance of women’s civil rights, because women’s rights increase the costs of authoritarian repression and enable women to organize in democratization movements. Without these basic rights, no country has managed to democratize fully,” says Yi-Ting Wang, the lead author of the study.

The only country that is different in this regard is Tunisia, whose progressive president Habib Bourbuiba implemented several basic rights for women already when the country gained independence in the 1950s. Consequently, the only country that made a successful transition to democracy during the Arab spring was Tunisia.

Inspired by evolutionary biology

The international team of scholars used a novel methodological approach inspired by evolutionary biology.

“We strongly believe in methodologies inspired by natural sciences. In fact, we think that this cross-disciplinary approach will help us, as political scientists, to better understand democratic transitions and other phenomena in the future”, says Staffan Lindberg.

The research article “Women’s rights in democratic transitions: A global sequence analysis, 1900-2012. European Journal of Political Research” can be found here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1475-6765.12201/abstract

The international team behind this study includes Staffan I. Lindberg and Aksel Sundström from the University of Gothenburg, Patrik Lindenfors and Fredrik Jansson from Stockholm University, Yi-ting Wang from National Cheng Kung University, and Pamela Paxton from the University of Texas.

Fairmont Opens In Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:07

By Iuliia Tore

AccorHotels today announced the signing of a hotel management agreement (HMA) with New Mauritius Hotels Limited, one of the oldest and largest owning and management hospitality companies based in Mauritius.

The new agreement will see AccorHotels relaunch the existing property under the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts brand in May 2017. The reflagging will mark a major step for the luxury brand in Africa.

Located just 12 kilometers from the bustling city of Marrakech, Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech is nestled within the heart of a century-old olive grove, spanning 231 hectares with uninterrupted views of the Atlas Mountains. The hotel also boasts unmatched resort amenities including an expansive 6,608 meter, 18-hole golf course created by renowned architect Cabell B. Robinson.

Olivier Granet, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director, AccorHotels Middle East & Africa said: “We are delighted to have the first Fairmont hotel in operation in Morocco, a unique brand that represents some of the most iconic and distinctive hotels in the world. ” He further added: “Morocco is a strategic market for us and one in which we are witnessing solid growth and momentum. With 37 hotels currently within our portfolio, we look forward to complementing the country’s already robust tourism development plan, and to reinforce our global development objective for Africa overall by doubling our network to reach 200 hotels.”

Gilbert Espitalier-Noël, Chief Executive Officer, New Mauritius Hotels Limited said: “We are delighted to have signed this management agreement with the luxury division of AccorHotels. The Royal Palm Marrakech is an exceptional resort which we are proud to have developed. We are confident that the management and commercial strength of the AccorHotels Group, with its newly acquired Fairmont brand, will contribute to establishing the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech as Morocco’s premier resort.”

Featuring 134 guestrooms including five Presidential Suites, one Penthouse Suite, and 10 Prince villas, the resort currently also offers 94 private residences consisting of two, three and four-bedroom villas. Subsequent phases of the development will include both Fairmont Royal Palm Residences and Fairmont Royal Palm Estates, joining Fairmont’s exclusive portfolio of branded private residences. Currently, under development, the branded residences will be serviced by Fairmont, enabling residents to enjoy the full benefits of a resort lifestyle. Each Residence is elegantly designed, ranging from 200 square meters for a two bedroom to over 500 square meters for a four-bedroom villa. Optional furniture packages will be available, featuring inspired designs that reflect the local heritage and cultural influences, as well as high quality materials, fabrics and appliances.

Hamid Bentahar, Executive Vice President, Luxury & Upscale Brands, Africa & Indian Ocean, AccorHotels, added: “We’re delighted to announce this new mixed use property that combines luxury residences and a five-star hotel. Our exceptionally strong residential expertise means we offer one of the most attractive hospitality options to guests. Fairmont Royal Palm is the latest step in our journey to becoming one of the premium luxury operators in Morocco.”

The resort currently features four restaurants and lounges including Le Caravane, an international restaurant on the terrace; L’Olivier, overlooking the swimming pool and serving Mediterranean cuisine; Al Ain, a traditional Moroccan restaurant; and Le Bar, offering an evening respite with its own cigar cellar. Due to open shortly, The Golf Course Country Club will add even more options for guests. Serving also as the club house for residence owners, The Country Club will comprise of a lounge, restaurants, and a health club and swimming pool.

Leisure options include a 25 meter year-round heated, ozonized swimming pool as well as a 3,500 sqm spa including a bespoke private area. In addition to its own golf club, highlighted by an expanse of 75 hectares, Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech is surrounded by three of the eleven golf courses in the city. It is also the nearest resort to the acclaimed Assoufid Golf Club, award winner of the World Golf Awards 2016 in Morocco.

The vast estate, which lies at the foot of the Atlas mountain range and only a 10minute drive from Menara Airport, is within close proximity to the mythical Red City offering travelers a culturally enriching and quaint experience with a range of local attractions.

The addition of a landmark hotel in a strategic African market supports AccorHotels’ goal of brand growth and expansion, particularly in the luxury sector. With more than 70 hotels worldwide, Fairmont continues to expand globally with recent openings including Fairmont Quasar Istanbul, Fairmont Chengdu in Western China and Fairmont Fujairah the Middle East. New luxury hotels scheduled to open later in 2017 include the 317-room Fairmont Amman in Jordan, the 298-room Fairmont Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and the 1048-room Fairmont Austin in Texas. Beyond that, other hotels in development include Fairmont Kuala Lumpur, Fairmont Jeddah Hotel & Resort and Fairmont Costa Canuva in Mexico’s burgeoning Riviera Nayarit region, to name a few.

German Prosecutors Investigate Moroccan Man’s Plan To Attack Russia Embassy

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 08:52

by Erik Kirschbaum

A 24-year-old Moroccan man is being investigated in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack on the Russian embassy in Berlin, a spokesman for the Dresden state prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

“We have started an investigation into the man under suspicion of planning an act of violence against the Russian embassy in Berlin,” Steve Schulze-Reinhold told reporters.

Schulze-Reinhold said the suspect had been detained at a refugee centre in the Saxon town of Borsdorf near Leipzig.

No further details into the investigation were provided.

Fourteen people were killed and 50 wounded in last week’s suicide bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro. Russian state investigators said the suspected bomber was Akbarzhon Jalilov, a 23-year-old born in the mainly Muslim ex-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

U.N. Chief Calls for Western Sahara Talks, Parties Wary

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 08:39

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)

New Manchester Airport Route Connects North West With Morocco’s Atlas Mountains

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 04/10/2017 - 09:51

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.“

European Men’s And Ladies’ Tours Join Forces In Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 04/10/2017 - 09:43

Bruce Young

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.


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.

More Articles from Bruce Young

Morocco Lets 17 UN Civilian Staff Back In Sahara

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 04/08/2017 - 09:37

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.

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.

Morocco Attracts 207 Mln U.S. Dollars Green Funds

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 04/08/2017 - 01:14

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.

Fitch Affirms Morocco at ‘BBB-‘ Outlook Stable

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 09:17


(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.

Contact: Primary Analyst Jan Friederich Senior Director +852 2263 9910 Fitch (Hong Kong) Limited 19/F Man Yee Building 68 Des Voeux Road Central Hong Kong Secondary Analyst Amelie Roux Director+33 144 299 282 Committee Chairperson Michele Napolitano Senior Director +44 20 3530 1882 Media Relations: Peter Fitzpatrick, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1103, Email: peter.fitzpatrick@fitchratings.com; Wai-Lun Wan, Hong Kong, Tel: +852 2263 9935, Email: wailun.wan@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com Applicable Criteria Country Ceilings (pub. 16 Aug 2016) hereSovereign Rating Criteria (pub. 18 Jul 2016)here Additional Disclosures Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form here_id=1021856 Solicitation Status here.


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Morocco’s CIH Says Eyes Growth From Currency Reform, Islamic Finance

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 09:08

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) ((pat.markey@thomsonreuters.com; +213-661-692993; Reuters Messaging: pat.markey.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Morocco’s Economy Grows By 4.3 Pct In First Quarter

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 07:01

Source: Xinhua

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.

Morocco, Fourth In World Destinations Per Flights To Or From Europe- Euronews

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 01:53

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.

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.

Exploring The Ancient City Of Volubilis

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 11:00

Travel Pulse
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.

Michael Rubin: Spain’s Land Grab In Gibraltar Is Pure Hypocrisy

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 00:50

Yahoo! News
Michael Rubin

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.

Related: Conflict likely despite polite start to Britain-EU divorce

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.

Spain Wants Britain To Hand Back Gibraltar Yet No Intention Of Giving Up Morocco Enclaves

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 14:07

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.

Morocco King Names New Cabinet, Islamists Lose Key Post

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 13:15

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.”

Sahara-UN: Security Council April Session Promises to Be Heated

Sahara News - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:59
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to present his annual report on MINURSO and the latest developments in Western Sahara on Friday (April 7), while tension persists in the area. Tension erupted after the Polisario positioned its armed militiamen in the demilitarized buffer zone at the Moroccan border post of Guerguerate. According to the UN […]

Brahim Ghali: The reasons of his anger at the Polisario apparatchik

Polisario-confidential - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:55
As the situation in the Tindouf camps is increasingly deteriorating and the Sahrawi population’s discontent is mounting, the Polisario leader summoned the dignitaries of the separatist movement to return to live in the camps with their families in order to set an example. For Brahim Ghali, whose remarks are reported by a pro-Polisario website, it […]