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Security Council Extends Mandate Of United Nations Mission for Referendum In Western Sahara, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2351 (2017)

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 06:42

United Nations
Security Council
Full Text

7933rd Meeting (Night)

The Security Council decided this afternoon to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2018.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2351 (2017), the Council called on the parties to the Western Sahara conflict to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, in order to facilitate a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.

By other terms of the text, the 15-member Council called on the parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO, and to take the necessary steps to ensure unhindered movement for United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate. Reaffirming the need to fully respect military agreements reached with MINURSO on the ceasefire and calls for full adherence to those accords, the Council recognized that the recent crisis in the Guerguerat buffer strip raised fundamental questions about the ceasefire and related agreements.

Emphasizing the importance of the parties’ commitment to continuing the preparations for a fifth round of negotiations, the Council called upon them to demonstrate the political will to work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations, and to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Council encouraged the parties to resume cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to review and, where possible, expand confidence-building measures. It urged Member States to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees were adequately addressed. It also supported an increase in the ratio of medical personnel within the current uniformed authorization, as requested in the Secretary-General’s most recent report to address MINURSO’s severely overstretched medical capacity.

Delivering remarks after the vote were representatives of the United States, Uruguay, Sweden, Senegal, Ethiopia, China, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Bolivia, Japan, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

The meeting began at 6:15 p.m. and at 7:05 p.m.

Statements

MICHELE SISON (United States), Council President for April, spoke in her national capacity, emphasizing that peacekeeping missions should support political solutions, said that postponing the vote had been the key to allowing the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to close out the 2016 chapter in the territory. The United States was pleased with the mandate renewal, which helped in returning the Council’s attention where it belonged — supporting a political process to resolve the situation on the ground. Emphasizing that the situation must change, she said the Council must look at the “big picture” in Western Sahara, including the absence of any political process for many years, she said. The resolution demonstrated the importance of the parties working with the United Nations to return to the table. The Mission must be able to hire the right staff in order to be as effective as possible, and to adjust components that were not working, as well as they should. The United States would watch closely to see what happened on the ground, she said.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) noted that the question of Western Sahara predictably came before the Security Council once a year, although the situation rarely created a media sensation. He called for regular information on the functionality of MINURSO, which had been affected by the expulsion of its staff. Since 1963, he recalled, the United Nations had recognized Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory in the process of decolonization. Uruguay supported the proposed renewed negotiating process and encouraged the parties to take steps for the creation of a lasting political solution.

CARL SKAU (Sweden) said the resolution represented a real opportunity to resolve one of the longest-standing issues on the Security Council’s agenda. “We can now turn the page,” he added, emphasizing that the resolution sent a strong signal that the time had come to resume negotiations. It provided strong support to the Secretary-General. “This is really diplomacy for peace in action,” he said, stressing the urgent need to resume the political process, which had been at a standstill for far too long. Sweden looked forward to working with the new Envoy, once appointed. Furthermore, the participation of women would inject a new energy into the political process, he said, adding that the resolution also sent a clear signal that it was critical to respect the ceasefire, and that violations would not be accepted.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said that concerns reiterated in the text demonstrated the Council’s commitment to finding a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. Cooperation between Morocco and the Secretariat had produced progress, he said, expressing hope that cooperation with other parties could be guided by realistic steps. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s intention to relaunch the negotiation process, he noted the independence plan proposed by Morocco, describing it as a serious and credible solution. It should be taken into account as negotiations resumed, he added.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) noted that the Secretary-General appeared committed to relaunching the peace process. However, it was important to restore the functionality of the Mission, the role of which had become increasingly important as the situation developed on the ground. Both parties should be called upon to honour the commitments they had made in previous agreements and refrain from any action that would further undermine peace efforts. The Security Council must understand the full context of the situation on the ground in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable political solution.

ZHANG DIANBIN (China) said the Western Sahara issue was complicated, but it was important to create conditions of stability and to take steps towards a political solution. China had always held a position of objectivity and impartiality on the issue, and would continue to support efforts by the United Nations to find a political solution, he added.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the pooled efforts of the Secretary-General and the Council had produced the desired results in Al-Guergarat, and the page could be turned on the crisis. It was now important to respect the ceasefire in all cases, he emphasized. The Council’s support for resuming the political process was unambiguously expressed in the resolution, as was the important role of neighbouring countries in finding a solution, he said.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said today’s forward-looking resolution marked an important step towards a solution to the decades-long conflict. The United Kingdom also welcomed the strong commitment and support for the Secretary-General’s relaunch of the negotiating process with the aim of finding a lasting political solution. It was clear that the issue could only be resolved through progress on the political track, he said.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) expressed hope that recent developments, as well as the resolution could build the required momentum towards rapid resumption of the political process.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said he trusted that the parties would resume a political process leading to a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. Bolivia was committed to continuing efforts to ensure that the people of Western Sahara could pursue their right to self-determination, he said, noting his country’s strong ties with both the people of Morocco and those of Western Sahara, and believed that dialogue was the only legitimate way for the world’s peoples to live in peace.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) voiced appreciation for the Secretary-General’s efforts to resolve the Al-Guergarat crisis and to ensure resumption of the political process. Emphasizing his country’s eagerness to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping, he said the Council must assess whether deployments were adequately linked to realities on the ground, and stressed the importance of linking political processes to mandates.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that while he understood that the text did not address all the concerns of some Council members, the document demonstrated the Council’s effort to revive the political process in Western Sahara. Calling on all parties to rise to their shared responsibility, he urged them to refrain from actions that may undermine the ceasefire agreement.

PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said the Council’s unified position must send both parties a clear message of the need to resume direct talks. Antagonism would only be overcome through a political solution, he added, emphasizing that Western Sahara conflict had an adverse impact on security in the Maghreb.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2351 (2017) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling and reaffirming all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara,

“Reaffirming its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to implement resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), 2218 (2015), and 2285 (2016),

“Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect,

“Reiterating its call upon the parties and the neighbouring states to cooperate more fully with the United Nations and with each other and to strengthen their involvement to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,

“Recognizing that achieving a political solution to this long-standing dispute and enhanced cooperation between the Member States of the Maghreb Arab Union would contribute to stability and security in the Sahel region,

“Welcoming the efforts of the Secretary-General to keep all peacekeeping operations, including the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), under close review and reiterating the need for the Council to pursue a rigorous, strategic approach to peacekeeping deployments, and effective management of resources,

“Emphasizing the need to regularly evaluate MINURSO’s performance such that the mission retains the skills and flexibility needed to effectively carry out its mandate,

“Further emphasizing that hiring, retention and assignment processes of the United Nations for MINURSO should allow for mission structures to quickly and easily adapt to changing operational environments, and noting the Secretary-General’s intention to reform these processes to make the Organization more nimble,
>
> “Recognizing the important role played by MINURSO on the ground and the need for it to fully implement its mandate, including its role in supporting the Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution,

“Expressing concern about the violations of existing agreements, and calling on the parties to respect their relevant obligations,

“Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution; also taking note of the Polisario Front proposal presented 10 April 2007 to the Secretary-General,

“Encouraging in this context, the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution including by expanding upon their discussion of each other’s proposals and further encouraging the neighbouring countries to make contributions to the political process,

“Taking note of the four rounds of negotiations held under the auspices of the Secretary-General and recognizing the importance of the parties committing to continue the negotiations process,

“Encouraging the parties to resume cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in implementing the January 2012 updated Plan of Action on Confidence-Building Measures, including programmes focused on linking people who have been divided for more than 40 years due to the conflict and further encouraging the parties to consider additional appropriate confidence-building measures,

“Stressing the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, and encouraging the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights, bearing in mind their relevant obligations under international law,

“Encouraging the parties to continue in their respective efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps, including the freedoms of expression and association,

“Welcoming in this regard, the recent steps and initiatives taken by Morocco, and the role played by the National Council on Human Rights Commissions operating in Dakhla and Laayoune, and Morocco’s interaction with Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council,

“Commending the technical visit of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Western Sahara in April 2015, and to the Tindouf refugee camps in July-August 2015, and strongly encouraging enhancing cooperation with OHCHR, including through facilitating further visits to the region,

“Noting with deep concern the continued hardships faced by Sahrawi refugees and their dependency on external humanitarian assistance, and further noting insufficient funding for those living in Tindouf refugee camps and the risk of potential reductions in food assistance,

“Reiterating its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and emphasizing efforts be made in this regard,

“Stressing the importance of a commitment by the parties to continue the process of negotiations through the United Nations-sponsored talks and encouraging the meaningful participation of women in these,

“Recognizing that the consolidation of the status quo is not acceptable, and noting further that progress in the negotiations is essential in order to improve the quality of life of the people of Western Sahara in all its aspects,

“Expressing gratitude for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Ambassador Christopher Ross, throughout his tenure, and affirming its continued full support for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara in facilitating negotiations between the parties, and calling on the parties and neighbouring States to cooperate fully with the Personal Envoy,

“Affirming full support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc,

“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 10 April 2017 (document S/2017/307),

“1. Decides to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2018;

“2. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire and calls on the parties to adhere fully to those agreements;

“3. Recognizes that the recent crisis in the buffer strip in Guerguerat raises fundamental questions related to the ceasefire and related agreements and encourages the Secretary-General to explore ways that such questions can be resolved;

“4. Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with the operations of MINURSO, including its free interaction with all interlocutors, and to take the necessary steps to ensure the security of, as well as unhindered movement and immediate access for the United Nations and associated personnel in carrying out their mandate, in conformity with existing agreements;

“5. Emphasizes the importance of the parties’ commitment to continue the process of preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, and recalls its endorsement of the recommendation in the report of 14 April 2008 (S/2008/251) that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to achieve progress in negotiations, and encourages the neighbouring countries to make important contributions to this process;

“6. Calls upon the parties to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to resume negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007), 1813 (2008), 1871 (2009), 1920 (2010), 1979 (2011), 2044 (2012), 2099 (2013), 2152 (2014), and 2218 (2015), and the success of negotiations;

“7. Affirms its full support for the commitment of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy towards a solution to the question of Western Sahara in this context to relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit leading to the resumption of a political process with the aim of reaching a mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations;

“8. Calls upon the parties to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect;

“9. Invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to these talks;

“10. Requests the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council on a regular basis, and at least twice a year, on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices, on the implementation of this resolution, challenges to MINURSO’s operations and steps taken to address them, expresses its intention to meet to receive and discuss his briefings and in this regard, and further requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period;

“11. Further requests the Secretary-General to update the Security Council within six months of the appointment of the new Personal Envoy on: (i) ways in which the Personal Envoy, working with the parties, is progressing towards a mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and present a clear path forward; (ii) how MINURSO’s performance measures are being developed and implemented; (iii) how structures and staffing can be reorganized to achieve mission goals efficiently; and (iv) how new technologies are being considered to reduce risk, improve force protection and better implement the mandate of MINURSO;

“12. Encourages the parties to resume cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to review, and where possible, expand confidence-building measures;

“13. Urges Member States to provide new and additional voluntary contributions to fund food programmes to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees are adequately addressed and avoid reductions in food rations;

“14. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including predeployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;

“15. Supports an increase in the ratio of medical personnel within the current uniformed authorization as requested in the most recent report of the Secretary-General to address the severely overstretched medical capacity of MINURSO;

“16. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

City Impressed With Sound Energy’s Latest Schlumberger Tie-up In Morocco

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 17:37

Proactive Investors
Jamie Ashcroft

Schlumberger will carry out a US$27mln geophysical programme to identify follow-on targets to build on the successes at nearby Tendrara.

Schlumberger gets 27.5% of the assets

City followers of Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) are impressed with the Morocco and Italy focussed firm’s latest deal, partnering with Schlumberger taking a stake exploration acreage near the Tendrara discovery.

The deal will see the AIM-listed gas exploration and development group receive a free carry on a US$27mln geophysical programme.

In return, Schlumberger will receive 27.5% stakes respectively in the newly acquired Meridja licence and the Tendrara relinquished areas onshore Morocco.

It builds on the three-well deal the pair inked covering Tendrara and follow-up agreement that will allow the US group to earn into the Badile operation near Milan, Italy.

Oil companies expert Malcolm Graham Wood, in his daily blog, said: “Yet again Sound have managed to acquire and share really interesting acreage securing a full carry on a key programme of work.

“With a supportive partner creating a key, strategic relationship, their options in the area are still multi-faceted.”

Elsewhere, WH Ireland analyst Brendan Long said: “This is clearly a positive endorsement by Schlumberger of the relinquishment areas and an indication of Schlumberger’s satisfaction with its working relationship with Sound.”

Eastern Morocco exploration programme

The exploration programme will include the acquisition and processing of approximately 2,600 kilometres of new 2D seismic and 24,000-square kilometres of gravity gradiometry.

The seismic will cover the TAGI and Paleozoic horizons across the Tendrara and Meridja areas.

“We are delighted to introduce Schlumberger into Meridja and the relinquished areas whilst also securing a full carry on the forthcoming seismic programme,” said chief executive James Parsons.

“The extension of the field management agreement will further deepen our strategic relationship with Schlumberger, who share the company’s view of our eastern Morocco potential and frees up cash to allow us to accelerate our exploration of the region.”

Morocco Summons Algeria Envoy Over Deportation Of Syrian Refugees

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 04:08

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Morocco has summoned Algeria’s ambassador to express concern after 54 Syrians attempted to illegally enter the country from Algeria. (AFP)

The Moroccan Interior Ministry accused Algerian authorities of deporting 55 Syrians, including women and children, towards the kingdom as Rabat summoned the Algerian envoy over the development.

The ministry statement said that the Algerian authorities have “cornered” the refugees nears the border city of Figuig.

The Moroccan authorities “condemned these inhumane actions by the Algerian authorities against these refugees, especially when it comes to women and children who are in a fragile state.”

It questioned how the authorities in the neighboring country have not catered to the displaced and instead forced them towards Moroccan soil.

The development has forced Morocco to summon Algeria’s ambassador to express concern after the Syrians attempted to “illegally enter” the country from Algeria, the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on Sunday.

It said 54 Syrians attempted to enter Morocco through the border town of Figuig, an area surrounded by mountains, between April 17 and 19. It accused Algeria of forcing them to cross into Morocco.

“Algeria must assume political responsibility and morality concerning this situation,” the ministry statement on MAP state news agency said.

“It is immoral and unethical to manipulate the moral and physical distress of these people, (and) to sow trouble in the Morocco-Algerian border.”

There was no immediate response from Algeria on state news agency APS.

Some 5,000 Syrians have gone through a migration regulatory process in Morocco, with several hundred receiving refugee status, according to Morocco’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Morocco and Algeria share a 1,500 km (970 mile) land border that runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sahara Desert which has been shut since 1994.

The North African neighbors have had a contentious relationship since independence from France. Border disputes triggered an armed conflict in the 1960s known as the “Sand War”.

One of their biggest disputes has been over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, most of which Morocco annexed in 1975.

Algeria supports and hosts the Western Saharan independence movement Polisario, a stance which angers Morocco.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

Morocco Says Algeria Expelled 55 Syrian Refugees Across Border

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 14:25

Middle East Eye

Morocco has accused Algeria of expelling 55 Syrian migrants across the countries’ shared border, criticising it for “inhumane behaviour” in the latest row between the North African rivals.

The migrants were sent across the frontier near the desert town of Figuig, Morocco’s interior ministry said in a statement Friday.

They had reached the area in several groups before being “surrounded” by the Algerian police amid searing heat in the rugged terrain, according to the Moroccan authorities.

Rabat condemned its North African neighbour’s “inhumane behaviour” towards the migrants, who included “women and children in a very vulnerable situation”.

The act was ‘contrary to the rules of good neighbourliness advocated by Morocco’
– Moroccan Interior Ministry
The expulsion was “contrary to the rules of good neighbourliness advocated by Morocco,” it said.

The Moroccan media reported that the Syrians had been left to their fate in the border region as Morocco prevented them from entering its territory.

The ministry’s statement did not say whether they had been allowed to seek asylum in Morocco.

“This is not the first time that the Algerian authorities have expelled immigrants to Moroccan territory,” it said.

An NGO official in Figuig, who requested anonymity, said the migrants were still stuck at the border Saturday in two groups, without access to water or food.

In mid-March, a Moroccan migrant rights group, GADEM, reported that about 30 sub-Saharan migrants had been arrested in Morocco then left stranded in no man’s land between Morocco and Algeria, having been deported from both countries.

READ: Algeria: Tomorrow’s battleground for Islamic State and al-Qaeda?

Morocco adopted a new migration policy in 2013. In December it launched a new campaign to regularise the status of clandestine migrants on its territory, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa.

Rabat insists its migration policy is “humane and generous,” in contrast, it says, with the policy of its Algerian rival.

In January 2014, Morocco summoned Algeria’s ambassador to protest against its alleged expulsion of Syrians across their common border.

Algeria responded in kind, saying its border guards had merely refused to allow Syrians deported by Morocco to enter its territory.

Third Annual Morocco Festival In Russia Strives To Bring Marrakech To Moscow

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 04:24

Sfgate

Through its rich culture, Morocco is aiming to reach the heart of the Russian consumer – a business strategy which could pave the way for Moroccan products into the vast Russian market .

Centuries of history, modernity and elegance came together to form the third edition of the Morocco festival in Moscow as it kicked off at the Metropolis commercial center. The Moroccan Center for Exports Promotion – “Maroc export” – has been organizing this event since 2014 to showcase a wide range of Moroccan products to Russian consumers. The opening ceremony included noteworthy Moroccan cultural activities, along with business networking, and opened up opportunities to Moroccan exporters to promote their products.

Moroccan Ambassador in Moscow Abdelkader Lecheheb said: “The Russian market is very important for our country. Morocco is the second biggest partner for Russia in the Arab world and on the African scale. This third installment is held under the banner of the diversification of our products here in Russia” Textiles, cosmetics, footwear, leather, and home decoration were among the products in the spotlight at this year’s edition of the festival. More than 350 products from 33 major companies were presented over the course of the event.

They were selected by the purchasing managers of the Metropolis commercial center, who visited Morocco to choose the products that would be of interest Russian consumers. Yasmine Benjelloun, Managing Director at Fen Yadi, told Euronews: “We are a Moroccan brand specializing in Moroccan handicrafts. Today we are working with our own Moroccan designer who launched the “Ouchma” collection we see here. Ouchma is a mixture of Berber tattoo and Moroccan zéllige patterns. “We already operate in Europe and the Middle East and we want to continue our strategy to develop internationally, so the Russian market opened for us an opportunity we would like to capitalize upon.”

Strengthening trade relations with Morocco is also a point of interest for Moscow, the Minister of the Moscow City Government and Head of the Moscow City Foreign Economic and International Relations Department told Euronews that the Russian capital is looking to expand business opportunities to include more sectors. “It is really important for the Russian citizens to be acquainted with a different culture. We think that we can share experience in the municipal technology and in the development of transport,” he said. “Morocco is considered as one of the most stable regions of all the points of view not only security but also from economic point of view and from the protection of the investment.”

Along with the opening of the festival, some business meetings have been planned between the city of Moscow and ” Maroc export” for later this year in Morocco in order to enhance entrepreneurship and trade between the two countries. Media: Euronews Business

China, Morocco Eye Stronger Partnership

Sun, 04/23/2017 - 04:09

Xinhuanet china
Source: Xinhua

China and Morocco agreed to boost their strategic partnership during the three-day visit by Chinese publicity chief Liu Qibao to Rabat.

Liu, head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has been in the African country since April 20 with a Chinese delegation at the invitation of the Moroccan government. During the stay he met with Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani and the speaker of the House of Advisors Hakim Benchamach, among others.

The decision of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Moroccan King Mohammed VI to establish strategic partnership between the two countries last year has opened a new chapter in bilateral relations, he noted. A strategic partnership is a more elevated relationship between China and another country.

The CPC is ready to maintain friendly relations with Moroccan political parties and carry out discussions on national governance and party building, he said.

Liu also hoped to see the two nations increase people-to-people exchanges, and expand their cooperation in areas like culture, broadcasting, news, education and tourism.

The Moroccan side, for its part, said the king’s visit to China last year has lead to a new stage in bilateral relations.

Moroccan officials said China’s transformation under the CPC has been remarkable, and the strategic partnership can be enhanced through closer ties in politics, trade, and people-to-people ties.

During the visit, Liu also witnessed the signing of an agreement allowing the broadcast of a Chinese television series as well as movies on the leading Moroccan TV channel 2M, the launching of a Chinese series dubbed in Arabic, and the opening of a visual exhibition at the National Library showcasing both the cultures of China and Morocco.

Morocco, Cuba Resume Diplomatic Ties After 37 Years

Sun, 04/23/2017 - 00:58

Asharq Al-Awsat

Morocco and Cuba have restored their diplomatic relations after 37 years, announced the Moroccan news agency.

It said that the two countries’ permanent representatives at the United Nations signed an agreement in New York to resume the ties that were severed in 1976 after Havana recognized the Polisario Front’s “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic”.

The agreement stated:”The government of the Kingdom of Morocco and the government of the Cuban republic, who share a mutual desire to develop ties of friendship and cooperation in political, economic and social fields, have resumed their diplomatic ties on the level of ambassadors.”

The agreement, written in Spanish, English and Arabic, became effective immediately after it was signed by the two sides.

A Moroccan Foreign Ministry statement said that the kingdom restored its ties with Cuba based on the orders of King Mohammed VI.

“The decision is part of royal directives to achieve open diplomacy with partners and in new geographic fields,” it added.

The monarch also ordered opening a Moroccan embassy in Havana.

King Mohammed had paid a visit to Cuba last week.

The Moroccan news agency noted that the restoration of ties with the Caribbean country came shortly after Morocco rejoined the African Union.

“Moroccan diplomacy has entered a new significant phase under the leadership of King Mohammed. It will steer away from outdated and petty calculations and ideologies,” said the news agency.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsathas established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

Cuba, Morocco Reestablish Diplomatic Ties After 37 Years

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 21:14

China Daily
(Xinhua)

HAVANA – Cuba and Morocco signed an agreement Friday to reestablish diplomatic ties after a gap of 37 years, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Guided by the mutual will to develop friendly relations, the two governments agreed to reestablish ties as well as political, economic and cultural cooperation,” said the agreement, signed by the two countries’ envoys to the United Nations in New York.

Relations will be restored with ambassadors being exchanged. Morocco’s King Mohamed VI has already ordered the opening of an embassy in Havana, one of the few Latin American capitals where Rabat was not represented to date.

Morocco cut ties with Havana in 1980 after Cuba recognized Western Sahara as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Morocco claims the territory as its own.

King Mohammed VI traveled to Cuba earlier this month for a private family visit, but it is widely believed that he maintained diplomatic contacts with the Cuban government during his stay there.

“African Lion” Military Drills Kick Off In Morocco – Military

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 14:34

KUNA kuweit

The African Lion multi-national military drills kicked off in the southern Moroccan city of Agadir on Saturday.

Military personnel from 11 countries are partaking in the largest joint annual exercise in Africa, the US embassy in Rabat said in a press statement.

It noted that nearly 1,300 personnel from the US marines, ground and air forces will participate in the drills, held under the command of the US African Command (Africom).

In addition the US and Morocco, armies of Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France, Mali, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, would contribute to the exercise to continue till April 28th.

African Lion is an annually scheduled, bilateral US and Moroccan-sponsored exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of African partner nation’s (APN) tactics, techniques and procedures. (end) mry.ibi

Cuba And Morocco Resume Diplomatic Relations

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 01:12

Prensa Latina

The official ceremony of the Signing of Agreement on the Resumption of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Cuba and the Kingdom of Morocco was held Friday at the headquarters of the Cuban Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN).

The ceremony was attended by the Cuban representative to the UN Anayansi Rodriguez and her Moroccan peer Omar Hilale.

Both governments re-established their diplomatic relations drawn by the mutual will to develop friendly and cooperative relations between both nations on the political, economic, cultural fields, among others.

With this Agreement, Cuba and Morocco ratified that the resumption of their diplomatic relations is conducted in accordance with the principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter and international law, and in compliance with the spirit and standards established in the April 18, 1961’s Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

mh/pll/oda/wmr

Exercise African Lion 17 Kicks Off

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 14:57

Story by Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force, along with other U.S. military branches, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, and 11 other nations began the annual joint training Exercise AFRICAN LION 17 in the Kingdom of Morocco, April 19, 2017.

Approximately 150 U.S. Air Force Airmen, five aircraft and associated equipment are participating in the exercise. Units participating include: U.S. Air Forces in Europe & Air Forces Africa Joint Tactical Air Controllers, U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, Kentucky Air National Guard, and Utah Air National Guard.

“Multinational exercises give us an opportunity to train together, allow us to support joint and total forces, and strengthen our skills for future operations ” said Lt. Col. Jason Johnson, U.S. Air Force exercise lead commander.

The U.S. Air Force’s participation in this U.S. Marine Corps led exercise provides several joint training opportunities with U.S. military branches and Moroccan forces. This multinational exercise is an opportunity to reinforce lessons learned from past African Lion exercises, and will continue to build upon a foundation for future military cooperation and engagements.

“Working in a new environment with other U.S. military branches and the Moroccans gives us the opportunity to hone and refine our skills and enhances our professional relationships, allowing us to support the interoperability of forces,” said Capt. Tristan Stonger, 123rd Airlift Wing Project Officer.

This annually-scheduled, combined multilateral exercise aims to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures while demonstrating the strong bond between the nation’s militaries. In addition to the U.S. and Morocco, participating nations include: Germany, Senegal, Mauritania, Canada, France, Spain, Great Britain, Mali and Tunisia.

The exercise is scheduled to end on or about April 28, 2017, with all U.S. forces returning to their home bases at the conclusion of the exercise.

A Chance Encounter With An Arab Monarch (In Miami)

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 10:43

Canadian Jewich News
by Paul Lungen, Staff Reporter

Elie Mamann was out walking with his family on Lincoln Road in Miami’s South Beach area when he thought he saw someone he knew.

There, in a clothing store, shopping with his wife and son, was a middle-aged guy wearing a jean shirt and denim pants. Mamann, a native of Toronto whose family immigrated from Morocco in 1963, recognized him immediately.

“That was the king of Morocco,” he blurted out to his wife, Sultana.

At first, she didn’t believe him. “Yeah, right,” she replied.

But Mamann was certain of it. In his household growing up, as in many of the homes of Moroccan Jewish emigrés, the king was held in high regard. So was his father, King Hassan II. And there, mingling with the commoners, in clothing as casual as you can get, was the king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, along with his wife, Princess Lalla Salma, and son, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan.

READ: WHY WE NEED TO STOP ‘RECREATING’ THE HOLOCAUST

The royal trio might have been mistaken for just another family out shopping during a family vacation. Except, of course for the U.S. Secret Service agents strategically placed around them, in addition to members of the king’s own entourage.

Mamann walked up to one of the king’s assistants, a woman in charge of protocol, it appeared, and asked permission to approach the king.

As it turned out, the king is very approachable. Mamann was given the green light and soon was in conversation with the monarch.

“I said, ‘Your majesty, I’m born in Toronto, my parents were from Casablanca and I want to thank you for all you do for the Jewish people in Morocco and around the world. He said, ‘It is my honour,’” Mamann recounted.

“He was the nicest guy you can ever meet in your life,” Mamann stated on the phone from Florida, where his family was still enjoying their Passover vacation.

The men conversed in French. The wives spoke in Spanish. The king was particularly impressed that the royal family is held in esteem by former Moroccans and that even third-generation Moroccans, like Mamann’s children, Haim, 15, Joshua, 14, and Shira, 11, are taught about the Jews’ long history in that north African land.

King Mohammed was surprised that Haim, who attends Yeshivat Or Chaim, just completed a project on the king of Morocco, in which he explained how Jews were proud of their heritage.

“He couldn’t believe it,” Mamann recounted.

For many Jewish Canadians, it can be puzzling why Moroccans hold the monarch in such high regard, Mamann said. But Moroccan Jews know the monarchy has been good to its Jews.

“Jews are safe in Morocco,” even while that is generally not the case across the rest of the Arab world, he said.

Jews have served in the government, and the country maintains good relations with Israel. The graves of saintly rabbis are protected by Moroccan guards provided by the king, Mamann said.

Of course, Jewish history in Morocco was not always sunshine and rainbows. Where once there were 260,000 Jews in the country, today the number is down to around 2,500. Facing sporadic violence, most left in the decades following creation of the State of Israel, though the king is credited with offering protection to the country’s Jews.

The Mamanns spent about 40 minutes chatting with the royal family. The boys discussed basketball shoes and the king extended a personal invitation for the family to visit him in the royal palace.

“It was very nice for the king to be so hospitable,” Mamann said of the April 13 encounter. For his part, Mamann invited the king to visit Toronto.

And it wouldn’t be 2017 if the families didn’t pose for selfies before going their separate ways.

Coincidentally, the royal princess and Sultana crossed paths one day later, again in South Beach. “[The king’s] wife told Sultana that he never stops talking about you, that even if you’re not born in Morocco… and you’re a proud Canadian, that you still have connections to Morocco and teach your children our traditions,” Mamann recounted.

Back in Toronto, news of the encounter has spread and “everybody is flipping out,” Mamann said.

Mamann expects to take up the king’s offer and visit the royal palace, perhaps sometime next year.

In the meantime, the chance meeting certainly added an element of excitement to the family’s Passover getaway, one that may well join a lustrous tradition of Jewish Moroccan lore.

F.C.C. Leader Seeks Tech Companies’ Views On Net Neutrality

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 01:00

NYT
by Cecilia Kang

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, met with Facebook and other tech companies this week to seek feedback on his intention to unwind aspects of net neutrality, the rules that require broadband providers to make all internet content equally accessible for consumers.

Mr. Pai said on Thursday that his visits with executives at Facebook, Cisco, Oracle and Intel were constructive and that he believed the companies wanted to find “common ground.” Web companies have supported net neutrality, saying the protections guard them from paying tolls to get their content in front of consumers. Mr. Pai said that he agreed with the broad principles of net neutrality but that the rules, created by the commission in 2015, went too far in restricting broadband providers.

“I think they were appreciative,” Mr. Pai said of the tech companies. “I have been soliciting thoughts on online protections.”

Mr. Pai spoke at a news conference on Thursday after pushing through more rollbacks of Obama-era regulations. Appointed by President Trump in January, Mr. Pai has been on a deregulation charge. He has abolished a proposal to open the cable box market and frozen a program for broadband subsidies for low-income households. On Thursday, he passed two actions that will ease pricing restrictions on telecom giants and give broadcast television companies greater latitude to bulk up through mergers.

Mr. Pai’s biggest targets are net neutrality and the classification of broadband like a utility. He has the broad support of Republican lawmakers and is expected to introduce a plan that would weaken aspects of the net neutrality rules as soon as this month.

Mr. Pai said on Thursday that he wanted to overturn the declaration of broadband as a utility-like service, which puts stricter rules on broadband providers, akin to what phone services face today.

Facebook and Intel did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Mr. Pai’s remarks. The Internet Association, a trade group that represents Facebook, Google and Netflix, recently met with Mr. Pai and urged him to keep the rules intact.

A Cisco spokeswoman said Mr. Pai had asked the company’s chief executive, Chuck Robbins, to gather some Silicon Valley leaders to discuss the future of net neutrality. The informal discussion was held at Cisco’s campus in San Jose, Calif., the spokeswoman said.

In a statement, Oracle said its discussion with Mr. Pai this week was broad and did not address any specific policy proposals currently under consideration. Oracle has previously said it supports Mr. Pai’s agenda, and its meetings with him have included one with the company’s chief executive, Safra Catz, who was on Mr. Trump’s transition team.

The commission’s direction under Mr. Pai has alarmed consumer groups. Michael Copps, a former Democratic commissioner, said companies like AT&Tand Comcast that have heavily lobbied the commission to roll back rules would directly benefit from the recent actions.

“This is the price we pay for the outrageous influence of money in politics,” said Mr. Copps, a special adviser to the consumer group Common Cause. “The public interest suffers, and we are poorer — economically and civically — for it.”

In votes split down party lines on Thursday, Mr. Pai pushed forward a plan that will ease standards to allow telecom carriers like AT&T and CenturyLink to raise fees for small businesses, wireless carriers, hospitals and libraries to connect to the main arteries of their broadband networks. AT&T and other telecom giants had heavily lobbied for the new rule.

In a dramatic reversal from the Obama administration, which was pushing for caps on pricing, Mr. Pai said telecom companies should have more freedom to set their own rates. “Price regulation threatens competition and investment,” he said.

The commission also approved a separate proposal easing restrictions on broadcast television corporations seeking to buy more stations. Mignon Clyburn, the Democratic commissioner, voted against the proposal and warned that greater media consolidation would give fewer companies a bigger voice.

“This is industry consolidation month” at the F.C.C., she said.

These Trash Pickers Used To Have Miserable Jobs. Now They Run Their Own Recycling Cooperative

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:15

PRI’s The World
Credit:
Rebecca Rosman

Najat Rabat and Yassine Mazzout used to work picking trash from a landfill outside Morocco’s capital. Now they work together at the new recycling cooperative.

After his father died when he was only a teenager, Yassine Mazzout started working nights at the landfill next to his home near Morocco’s capital Rabat, salvaging items that could be recycled or sold from the mountain of filth.

“At 15, I should have spent my evenings playing with other kids,” said Mazzout. “But I spent all of my free time [at the landfill] to make money for my family.”

Mazzout is one of hundreds of residents of the small village of Accreche who relied on the landfill — one of Morocco’s largest — as a source of income. Residents would spend hours working in squalid conditions, often fighting one another over the most valuable materials.

Yassine Mazzout at the site of the former landfill outside Morocco’s capital Rabat, where he worked as a trash picker as a teenager. Mazzout is now the president of the At-Tawafouk recycling cooperative.

Credit:
Rebecca Rosman

But in 2010, the local municipality decided to shut it down and build a modern waste facility.

That was good news for the environment — landfills can be a big source of water and air pollution — but not so good for the people who depended on the dump for their livelihoods.

But in an unusual twist on a story of misery common to as many as 15 million dump pickers around the world, this one has a happy ending. Instead of leaving the workers without any job, the local government decided to open a recycling center at the new waste site, and to hire all the former trash pickers to run and manage it. Not only do they still have jobs, they have vastly better jobs, including benefits like health insurance, equal salaries, set hours and even free transportation to work.

“Before, I could work up to 13 hours a day in horrible conditions,” said Najat Rabat, who spent 10 years working at the landfill. “Now it’s only six hours, and in much better conditions.”

And they’ve pivoted from the competitive, dog-eat-dog culture of the landfill to working together in a new cooperative. It’s called “At-Tawafouk,” which loosely translates from Arabic as “Trust.”

But getting to this point wasn’t easy.

“[They] worked at a landfill without any rules,” said Mehdi Guedi, a consultant who helped oversee the transition. “So the state said to them, if you want to keep working, you need to have rules.”

In setting up the cooperative, the workers decided that everyone would make the same salary, work the same hours, and have equal input on any decisions made by the cooperative.

They also chose a president to represent them — Mazzout — who’s now 31 years old, and has been the face of the cooperative since it was founded.

As president, it’s Mazzout’s job not just to organize his colleagues, but to stand up for the cooperative’s interests with management. Everyone credits the cooperative’s success to Mazzout’s calm, intelligent instincts and strength as a leader.

“He’s a superstar,” says one of his coworkers.

Even managers admire him.

“Yassine was not what you would call in French a ‘Benny Oui Oui’ — like a doormat,” says former manager Gerard Prenant.

“When you suggested something, he wouldn’t just say yes. He defended the interests of the cooperative. But we always found a compromise, and it allowed us to innovate this kind of relationship.”

The former trash pickers went from competitors for junk at the dump to co-workers at the new recycling facility. Together they recycled more than 12,000 tons of trash in 2016. Backers hope the new facility will be a model for others around the world.

Credit:
Rebecca Rosman

Today, most cooperative members say they couldn’t imagine going back to the way things were at the landfill.

And the difference At-Tawafouk has made for the environment is also noteworthy.

In 2016, the cooperative recycled more than 12,000 tons of trash. They hope to double that number this year with a new processing line. That’s only a small slice of Morocco’s waste, and the facility employs only a small number of its waste pickers, but it could be the start of something much bigger.

“Given the success story of At-Tawafouk, I think this is something that can definitely be replicated,” said Maria Sarraf, an environmental economist at the World Bank, which helped fund the cooperative. At-Tawafouk was the first one, but if we come back in a few years there should be many more of them.”

Sarraf says the World Bank is already helping launch 18 similar projects in Morocco, which are expected for create 1,000 formal jobs for waste pickers. Sarraf also believes the model could spread elsewhere, to help transform the lives of some of the millions of trash collectors around the world.

For his part, Mazzout wants to be part of that process of creating more recycling cooperatives in his country. He regularly travels across Morocco to speak to similar communities about the success of At-Tawafouk.

But things move slowly in Morocco, and for now at least, At-Tawafouk remains the only one.

It’s not perfect, Mazzout says, but it’s a huge step forward.

“There’s lot of things we’re missing, but we have a real source of work. … The spirit of the cooperative is work.”

Not to mention dignity, decent working conditions, and a living wage.

Algiers To Host Algeria-Russia Counter-terrorism Consultations

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 00:47

The North Africa Post
Kamailoudini Tagba

Russia and Algeria are to meet up this Tuesday in the Algerian capital for the second consultations on the cooperation against terrorism established by both countries last year, reports say.

Announced by the Algerian foreign ministry, the meeting will be a platform to ponder over regional and international cooperation against terrorism, to address hotbed conflict zones such as Libya, Syria, other crisis such as Mali, the Western Sahara issue, local Algeria media Algerie Patriotique reports.

The delegations will also discuss the fight against cyber-terrorism as well as cyber criminality in addition to terrorism and organised crimes.

The Algerian delegation will be led by Abdelkader Messahel, Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and League of Arab States and the Russian side by Venediktov Alexandre, Representative of Russian Security Council.

Both countries established the consultations last year in the Russian capital to coordinate efforts and share best practices in the fight against terrorism.

Messahel was in Washington early this month where he attended the 4th session of US-Algeria cooperation on security and fight against terrorism.

POSTED BY KAMAILOUDINI TAGBA

Kamailoudini Tagba Independent Journalist, Freelance Interpreter and Toastmasters International Competent Communicator (CC), speech writer, based in Togo, West Africa Attended Central China Normal University (China), MA in Linguistics and Communication. Kamailoudini Tagba is UNESCO scholarship Alumni, interested in International Relations studies and Security Studies.

Kamailoudini Tagba, trained as journalist at Togo state radio, worked for the African Network of Culture Promoters and Entrepreneurs (rapec) as news writer. Studying to become Middle and Near East Politics expert for Africa

Dublin Airport Announces New Service To Morocco

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 20:06

Dublin Live

The new route is one of 11 new services that will be launched at the airport this year.

Dublin was the third best airport in Europe for customer service last year in a tie with Malta, Porto, and Zurich airports.

Dublin Airport has announced a new service from the capital to Agadir in Morocco, starting in October.

Air Arabia Maroc will operate twice weekly flights on Wednesdays and Sundays.

The airline is Morocco’s largest low cost carrier and part of the Air Arabia Group.

It currently operates flights to 48 European routes from five cities in Morocco: Casablanca, Fez, Tangier, Marrakech and Nador.

Its new Agadir base will have flights to seven European cities, including Dublin.

Dublin Airport Managing Director Vincent Harrison said: “We are delighted to welcome Air Arabia Maroc to Dublin Airport and to Ireland.

“This new service means that once again Irish holidaymakers will have a direct scheduled service to Agadir, which is a very popular winter sun destination.”

Adel Al Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia, added: “We are pleased to link Dublin with our newly launched base in Agadir. Dublin is the latest city to join Air Arabia Maroc’s ever growing destination network connecting Europe with Morocco.”

The new route is one of 11 new services that will be launched at Dublin Airport this year.

Morocco Plans Local Sukuk Issue Before Summer – Minister

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 18:47

Reuters
by Samia Errzzouki

Morocco plans to issue a local sukuk before summer but has no immediate prospects for an international sukuk bond sale, the finance minister said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Samia Errzzouki; writing by Patrick Markey)

Sound Energy Announces Mobilization Of Rig To Sidi Moktar, Morocco

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 15:02

World Oil

Sound Energy, the African and European focused upstream gas company, is pleased to announce the mobilization of a rig to the Company’s Sidi Moktar asset, onshore Morocco.

The Sidi Moktar licences cover 2,700 km2 in the Essaouira basin, central Morocco and contain an existing gas discovery in the Lower Liassic (Kechoula) and significant deeper potential. Sidi Moktar is close to existing infrastructure, including the large scale Moroccan state owned OCP Phosphate plant.

Two wells have already been drilled at Kechoula by previous operators and have been estimated to have an unrisked mid case original gas in place (GOIP) of 293 Bscf (gross). As previously announced by the Company, the Sidi Moktar licences are also estimated, similar to the Company’s Eastern Morocco positions, to have significant pre-Jurassic exploration potential from the TAGI and Paleozoic in excess of 1 Tcf unrisked GOIP (gross). The Company notes the quantitive assesment prepared by a previous operator in 1998, which referred to exploration potential of the Sidi Moktar licences of up to 9 Tcf unrisked GOIP (gross) in the TAGI and Paleozoic. The Company will require the reprocessing of existing 2D seismic, acquisition of new 2D seismic and drilling results before forming its own volume estimates for the exploration potential of the Sidi Moktar licences.

The Company announces that the SAIPEM rig used to drill the Company’s most recent Tendrara well (TE-8) has now been mobilized to Sidi Moktar. The rig will, upon arrival in May 2017, execute the re-entering and testing of the two existing wells on the Kechoula discovery which, subject to initial well results, may include a sidetrack and an extended well test thereafter.

Given the Company’s strong financial position, the Company also announces that it has decided not to proceed with the previously announced proposed farm out of Sidi Moktar, and to instead retain its 75% operated position in the Sidi Moktar licences.

Once the workovers, and any sidetrack and extended welltest are complete, the Company intends to renew the Sidi Moktar licences (which currently expire on Aug. 28, 2017) thereby starting a new eight year period. The first activity following the renewal of the Sidi Moktar licences will be 2D seismic reprocessing and the acquisition of new 2D seismic, scheduled for 2018, after which the deeper pre-salt horizons can be drilled.

Morocco To Start Liberalising Dirham By June – Cenbank

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 08:23

Reuters
by Samia Errazzouki

* Morocco working with IMF on currency reforms

* Cenbank sees gradual liberalisation of dirham

* Finance minister says local sukuk before summer (adds currency rate, trade deficit)

Morocco plans to start the process of floating its dirham currency by June, the central bank governor said on Tuesday, setting a tight schedule for a key part of an economic liberalisation programme agreed with international lenders.

In comments to Reuters, Abdellatif Jouahri also said the process to full exchange rate flexibility might take 15 years.

North Africa’s biggest energy importer, Morocco has been working with the International Monetary Fund on liberalising its currency as its finances have strengthened, helped in part by lower global oil prices.

Late last year, the government said the first stages of a move to a flexible exchange rate would be implemented in the second half of 2017.

On Tuesday Jouahri signalled an earlier start.

“We will begin the first phase of liberalising the dirham in the second quarter,” he said at an Arab finance ministers meeting in Rabat. “I can’t tell how long the duration of each phase will take, it depends on the market.”

The dirham’s exchange rate is currently tightly controlled via a 60 percent weighting to the euro and 40 percent to the dollar. On Tuesday one dollar bought 10.03 dirham.

Last year sources told Reuters that Morocco was considering widening the official fluctuation bands for the currency by around 5 percent in 2017.

A source at the central bank said there had been discussions about pushing back the start of the currency liberalisation process to the second half of 2017 due to delays in setting up a government after last October’s election. A new government was finally formed in April under Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani of the Islamist PJD party.

Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid said on Tuesday the planning had been for the second half of the year, but if the central bank decided on the second quarter it would be opportune because of the strong value of the dirham.

He said delaying currency reforms could fuel inflation, which would reflect some of the difficulties faced by Egypt after it floated its pound currency last year.

SUKUK BEFORE SUMMER

Boussaid also said Morocco planned to issue a local sukuk bond before the summer but there were currently no prospects for an international sukuk. Last year, he said Morocco would issue its first ever domestic Islamic bond in the first half of 2017.

Islamic banks and insurers are setting up in Morocco after it adopted legislation allowing them into the domestic market. The central bank has set up a central sharia board with the country’s body of Islamic scholars to oversee the new industry.

Morocco’s trade deficit rose 20.6 percent to 45.47 billion dirham ($4.53 billion) for the first three months of 2017 versus the same period a year ago as imports increased, the state foreign exchange regulator said on Tuesday.

Wheat imports fell 27 percent from a year earlier to 2.54 billion dirhams as a higher rainfall improved the harvest.

Total exports rose 3 percent from a year earlier to 60.13 billion dirhams, helped up by a hefty rise in phosphate exports.

Tourism receipts fell by 4.9 percent, while remittances from the 4.5 million Moroccans who live abroad fell 2.3 percent to 13.82 billion dirhams. Foreign direct investment fell 23.2 percent to 6.6 billion dirhams.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by John Stonestreet)

Morocco’s Trade Deficit Rose 20.6 pct To 45.47 Bln Dirhams In 1st Qtr – Regulator

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 08:00

Reuters
by Samia Errazzouki

Morocco’s trade deficit rose 20.6 percent to 45.47 billion dirham ($4.53 billion)for the first three months of 2017 versus the same period a year ago as imports increased, the state foreign exchange regulator said on Tuesday.

($1 = 10.0320 Moroccan dirham)

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; writing by Patrick Markey)

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