Morocco remains silent amid alleged reports of weapons sent to Ukraine
Since last November, several international websites have reported on an alleged secret delivery of spare parts of T72 tanks from Morocco to Ukraine.
The news was based on an exclusive report published by Africa Intelligence on 18 November 2022. The Paris-based media said that "the United States (…) has secretly managed to convince Morocco to deliver spare parts for T-72 tanks to Kyiv."
The same source said Morocco has sent nearly 20 vehicles to the battlefield. They have been reportedly modernised by the Czech company Excalibur Army in the Czech town of Sternbeck.
In an email to the TNA, Excalibur Army said its involvement in modernising the tanks is 'misinformation.' The Czech company did not articulate further.
The Moroccan army had originally purchased 148 T-72s, 136 T-72Bs and 12 T-72BKs from the Belarusian army in two batches in 1999 and 2000.
Rabat's arm-aid decision was reportedly made during the Ramstein Air Base summit in Germany in April 2022 under the auspices of the United States.
Tunisia and Morocco were the only two countries representing North Africa at the event.
A report by the Israeli news website i24 suggested that Morocco may receive the American M1 Abrams in exchange for its aid to Kyiv, as the United States had promised financial aid to countries that decided to get rid of Soviet military equipment.
Quoting no official source, the military aid reports' credibility is still up for debate.
The New Arab contacted the Moroccan foreign ministry for comment, but its officials refused to confirm or deny the arms deal.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rabat has chosen not to participate in the UN votes that condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The reasons behind Morocco's surprising refusal to take a stance against Washington's main rival have puzzled many experts.
Considering Russia's close ties with Algeria and its condemnation of the US recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara in 2020, many observers would have expected the kingdom to support a UN resolution against Moscow.
At the time, the Moroccan ministry of foreign affairs said that Rabat's decision "cannot be the subject of any interpretation regarding its principled position on the situation between the Russian Federation and Ukraine".
However, Morocco's ambiguous neutrality broke on 12 October as Rabat voted, along with 142 other countries during the 11th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Ukraine, calling Russia's annexation of Ukrainian territories "illegal" and urging Moscow to "unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces."
The sudden shift in Morocco's foreign policy on Putin's war on Ukraine is open to interpretations as neither Moscow nor Rabat are willing to openly discuss the situation of their ties.
"Morocco's current diplomacy is purely Machiavellian. I guess Rabat stuck first to neutrality to negotiate a good deal before taking sides," a Moroccan diplomacy expert told the TNA on condition of anonymity.
However, local media announced last week an expected visit of Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov to Morocco in February as part of his second-round Africa tour.
Lavrov's Africa tour comes amid Russia's determination to expand and boost cooperation with African countries after facing sanctions from Europe.
In the past decade, Morocco has made no secret of its desire to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with the Russian Federation. Moroccan King Mohammed VI visited Moscow twice in the last decade. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Rabat in 2006, the first visit by a Russian head of state since 1961.
Russia's exports to Morocco doubled in the first six months of 2022 to reach over US$950 million. Bilateral trade also almost doubled, practically reaching US$1.2 billion, according to Russia’s Trade Representative to Morocco.
The Russian minister's scheduled visit to Rabat will likely clarify Morocco's stance on the ongoing war in Ukraine, as both Moroccan and Russian ministers are expected to hold a press conference.