Morocco tones down Arab ties in favour of pan-Africanism

Morocco tones down Arab ties in favour of pan-Africanism
The North African country has formally notified the Economic Community of West African States that it wants to join their, signalling a further diplomatic realignment with African nations.
2 min read
25 February, 2017
King Mohammed VI meets Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in effort to woo West Africa [Getty]

Morocco has informed Liberia, the current chair of the Economic Community of West African States, of its desire to join the economic alliance as a full member.

A statement from the Moroccan foreign ministry announced the country's intention to seek full membership and plans to meet all the required criteria.

This effort crowns "the strong political, human, historical, religious and economic ties at all levels with ECOWAS member countries", said the statement.

The Moroccan King Mohammed VI has made 23 visits to 11 countries in the 15 country union over the last few years, highlighting a clear intention to realign Moroccan interests with Africa.

The Maghreb country rejoined the African Union in January, signalling a move away from North African diplomacy and close ties with Arab states. Last year Morocco refused to host the Arab League summit.

The move also comes in the same week that King Mohammed made public statements to UN head Antonio Guterres, attempting to persuade the UN that the Algeria-backed Polisario Front is undermining a ceasefire in Western Sahara.

Were Morocco to join ECOWAS as a full member it is likely that closer relations with West African neighbours would be used as a strong bargaining chip over the ultimate fate of the Western Sahara.

Morocco insists that the former Spanish colony is part of its kingdom, but the Polisario front demands UN mandated referendum on self-determination, which was agreed in 1991.

In December 2016 Morocco and Nigeria signed a major gas pipeline deal. The project, which has no set start date, would connect the two countries with each other and Europe.