Morocco decides to suspend relations with Germany

Moroccan foreign minister calls for "suspension of all contact with the German embassy in Morocco"
Atalayar_Nasser Bourita

AFP/ FADEL SENNA  -   Morocco's Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita

Morocco has decided to suspend all contacts with the German government and its public institutions. In an apparently sudden decision, the Alawite Kingdom did not want to specify the reason. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, issued a communiqué in which he justifies this decision as a consequence of "profound misunderstandings (...) on fundamental issues for the Kingdom of Morocco".

In a letter, addressed to the head of the government and all its members, Bourita calls for the "suspension of any contact, interaction or cooperative action (...) with the German embassy in Morocco, with German cooperation organisations and political foundations". It also warns that any exception to this suspension can only be made "on the basis of a prior agreement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs".

Atalayar_Nota del ministro de exteriores alemania
Note from the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs ordering the suspension of all relations with Germany

The text, therefore, does not establish a specific reason why diplomatic relations between Germany and Morocco could have been strained to this point. It is for this reason that rumours have multiplied as to the possible causes of the rift between the two countries.

One of the main theories is closely related to the conflict in Western Sahara. Berlin advocates "a fair and lasting political solution accepted by both parties under the auspices of the United Nations" as a way out of the dispute, a position far removed from Moroccan interests, which defend their sovereignty over the territory and are in favour of a referendum on autonomy. Moreover, Germany was the European country that pushed for the convening of a closed-door meeting of the Security Council last December to study the question of Western Sahara.

Atalayar_Nasser Bourita y Jared Kushner
PHOTO/AP - Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita speaks to reporters as White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, stands at the guesthouse next to the royal palace in Rabat, Morocco

Moroccan media, however, pointed to a possible German espionage plot. "Berlin is said to have sent informers to gather very sensitive information", write some local media. Amongst the speculation, others pointed out that the possible reason for this rupture could come from the placing of the Polisario Front flag, for a few hours, on the façade of the regional parliament in Bremen (Germany).

The last of the reasons could be a response by the North African kingdom to Germany's refusal to invite it to an international meeting on the conflict in Libya. Berlin hosted a conference in January 2020 to address the situation in Libya. For its part, Germany invited heads of state of the countries involved in the Libyan conflict, as well as representatives of the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League. Morocco expressed surprise that it had not received an invitation to the conference. Rabat added that its country has played an essential role in international efforts to end the conflict in Libya.

Atalayar_Nasser Bourita libia
AFP/ FADEL SENNA - Nasser Bourita, Morocco's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, chairs a meeting of representatives of Libya's rival administrations in the coastal city of Bouznika

Relations between Morocco and Germany have, by and large, been generally good. Indeed, three months ago, the foreign minister praised the 'excellence of bilateral cooperation' after Berlin released 1.387 billion euros in support of Moroccan financial reforms and countermeasures against the coronavirus.

It is likely that the tension between the two countries has not been triggered by a specific event, but has been building up to a point of no return, in which Morocco has decided to suspend relations with Germany, sending a clear and direct message to Angela Merkel's government. 

It is also feared that a diplomatic crisis could arise between Morocco and the European Union if, at the end of the year, the EU Court of Justice invalidates the agreements, renewed in 2019, on agriculture and fisheries. The Polisario Front appealed against these agreements because they included an extension for the Sahara which, in their view, does not comply with international law.