The head of French diplomacy received by his Moroccan counterpart on Monday

The head of French diplomacy Stéphane Séjourné will meet on Monday, February 26, in Rabat, with his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita, in an effort to warm up ties between the two countries after a series of diplomatic crises.

The exchange between the two ministers “will continue during a working lunch,” a diplomatic source said on Sunday.

“This visit constitutes a strong step to open a new chapter in the relationship between our two countries,” underlined the same source.

Stéphane Séjourné, expected Sunday evening in Rabat, has already made it known that he had been “personally” commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron to work towards rapprochement with Morocco.

Strong tensions

Recent years have been punctuated by extremely strong tensions between Morocco and France, a former colonial power where a large Moroccan diaspora lives.

In Rabat, the French decision, in September 2021, to halve the granting of visas to Moroccans was particularly criticized. In addition, the policy of rapprochement with Algeria desired by Emmanuel Macron, while Algiers broke off its diplomatic relations with Rabat in 2021, had irritated Morocco to the highest degree.

On the French side, we hardly appreciated the revelations from the media consortium Forbidden Stories, according to which the telephone numbers of Emmanuel Macron and ministers had been targeted in 2019 by Morocco, user of the Israeli spyware Pegasus. Rabat denied.

A vote by the European Parliament in January 2023 condemning the deterioration of press freedom in Morocco added to diplomatic tensions. In September, a new controversy arose when France offered its aid to Morocco, hit by an earthquake, aid which Rabat had ignored.

A stopover visit to work on “a new political agenda”

Relations then seemed to be at an impasse before the French ambassador to Morocco made a public mea culpa in November and a Moroccan ambassador to France was appointed after months of vacancy, thus initiating a period of thaw.

Stéphane Séjourné’s visit is a first step towards working “for a new political agenda, in all areas, with common priorities”, indicated the diplomatic source.

Paris also promises to stand “alongside Morocco on the most sensitive issues”.

France is expected on the question of Western Sahara, Morocco’s “national cause”. On Monday, the wife of the French president, Brigitte Macron, welcomed the sisters of the King of Morocco Mohammed VI to the Elysée, a gesture particularly appreciated in Morocco.

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