Mohammed VI received Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the Royal Palace in Fez on Wednesday. At the meeting they discussed regional and international issues and discussed ways to enhance cooperation between the two countries to further improve their relations.
Bin Zayed took the opportunity to convey to Mohammed VI the greetings of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and wished Morocco continued progress and development.
The Emirati foreign minister reaffirmed that the leaders of his country and Morocco share ties of brotherhood and will always be eager to boost cooperation in all sectors to achieve their common goals.
Relations between the UAE and Morocco were strained in 2017 due to the UAE's boycott of Qatar, which Rabat frowned upon. Tension could also be seen when the UAE supported the joint bid of the United States, Mexico and Canada to host the 2026 World Cup to the detriment of the Moroccan bid. However, diplomatic relations between the two countries are currently going well.
Proof of this is that the UAE became the first country to open a consulate in Western Sahara last November, in the city of Laayoune, ahead of the United States, which had planned to open one in the port city of Dakhla, although it is not known whether the new President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will follow through with their predecessors' plans.
The consulate opened in the largest city in Western Sahara, which has been controlled by Morocco since 1975. Morocco's king described the decision as "historic" in a phone call with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. The announcement came just days after the UAE declared its support for Moroccan sovereignty over the region. It also expressed support for Morocco's actions to restore commercial movement in the El Guerguerat de-escalation zone after a three-week blockade due to the conflict between the Moroccan military and the Polisario Front.
The Emirati foreign minister took part last week in a US-Moroccan ministerial videoconference that brought together 40 countries in support of Morocco's proposed autonomy plan for Western Sahara. In his speech, the minister made clear the UAE's support for any steps Morocco takes to have the Sahara recognised as Moroccan territory.
The step taken by the UAE was seen by Rabat as helping other Arab countries to follow suit, as it is of vital importance for Morocco to recognise Western Sahara as part of its national territory. Although it is a sparsely populated desert region, it possesses a rich source of raw materials such as phosphate deposits.