Mohamed Benchaâboun, Morocco's new ambassador to Paris

The former Minister of Finance takes the place of Chakib Benmoussa
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Morocco's new ambassador to France, Mohamed Benchaaboun

The resounding fall of the Justice and Development Party in the elections of 8 September left Morocco facing a new political context in which ten years of Islamism came to an end. Aziz Ajanuch, with the support of King Mohammed VI, was in charge of forming a new government that, without breaking with everything the PJD had built over the past decade, could begin a new stage of change in the Kingdom. The changes in the organisation of the country's leaders have not ceased, and now Rabat has announced Mohamed Benchaâboun as the new Moroccan ambassador to France.

Following the opening of Morocco's new embassy in Israel, the Alawite kingdom's diplomatic moves continue. The former Minister of Economy and Finance has seen his post taken by Nadia Fattah, the first woman in Morocco's history to head this portfolio. In turn, the Kingdom's ambassador to Paris, Chakib Benmoussa, has been appointed as the new Minister of Education and Sports, leaving the embassy free for Benchaâboun's arrival at a delicate moment for relations between Morocco and the country led by Emanuel Macron.
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Rabat considers the French government's move to drastically reduce the granting of visas to Moroccans to be "unjustified". However, Paris has long been asking those now led by Aziz Ajanuch to take in Moroccan nationals who are irregularly present in France and whom they intend to expel. Macron's decision also extends to Algeria and Tunisia in what French government spokesman Gabriel Attal describes as "a necessary decision because these countries do not accept to take in their nationals whom we do not want and who cannot remain in France".

Mohamed Benchaâboun arrives to try to smooth over the problems that have led to an escalation of tension between the two countries. The visa issue is of vital importance for Morocco, as it is the state with the most applications in the world to travel to France, with more than 24,000 requests in the first quarter of this year alone, of which 18,500 were accepted, according to data published by the daily Le Figaro. However, in the same period, France issued an expulsion order for 3,301 Moroccan nationals, of whom only 80 actually returned to the Alawi kingdom, which has led to a reduction in the number of visas for Moroccan nationals.

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AFP/PHILIPPE WOJAZER - France's President Emmanuel Macron

The delay in the expulsion of these people in an irregular situation is often caused because they destroy their identity papers, making the process of expelling them from the country much more complex. It is at this point that Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia must do their part to facilitate the process, something that, according to the French government, they do not do. The states of origin must issue a new document or consular laissez-passer to make the expulsion process viable, something they do very infrequently, according to Paris. Indeed, Attal referred to this by saying that he hopes "this will lead the countries concerned to change their policy and accept to issue consular laissez-passers".

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AFP/FADEL SENNA - Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco

Morocco has not stood idly by in the face of France's accusations. The Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, explained in declarations to the EFE news agency that Rabat has two indispensable requirements to allow the return of these people to its territory. The first of these is a document certifying their Moroccan nationality - which is often complex due to the destruction of their identity documents - and a PCR test for COVID-19. France is not currently requiring such tests, which Bourita says is not the Kingdom's problem.

"If French law does not allow the authorities to force a person to be tested for the virus, then it is not Morocco's problem," said the foreign minister. Benchaâboun's arrival in Paris is intended to have both a rapid and positive impact on relations between two countries that are doomed to understand each other. Morocco as France's great ally in the Maghreb region, and Paris as Rabat's ally at the United Nations and, above all, at the Security Council.