. What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your work as Ambassador
It was difficult at first to wake up and adopt new posture, which are not necessarily easy to integrate culturally like social distancing or avoiding handshakes. I was, like everyone else, challenging my capacity for adaptation. The shift to digital tools and digital diplomacy was crucial. For a long time, we’ve been talking about the advent of digital diplomacy. It has really now arrived. Covid-19 has hastened the arrival of hybrid diplomacy, a blend of the physical and digital. Despite all this, I have to say that personally, I still prefer a face to face chat to a video conference because human contact remains, after all, a fundamental part of our work and often helps to create bonds that go beyond simple professional relationships.
. In a time of crisis, as it is in this pandemic, how should a Diplomat act
I sincerely believe that crisis can often also be opportunities. To face the scale of the changes the world is undergoing, I think that we need, more than ever, a proactive and forward-looking Diplomat who has the ability to adapt quickly and to anticipate. We are fortunate to have all these means of communication right now. Thanks to the supportive effort of our Ministry, Moroccan Diplomats in general have demonstrated their perfect ability to meet the challenges of the moment.
. Still on the subject of Covid-19, the Moroccan approach to managing the health crisis has often been set up as an example. What was the secret of this success
Facing the Covid-19 crisis, Morocco has adopted a proactive and coherent approach. The Kingdom, under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, handled this ordeal with determination and serenity. Even before the first cases of the Corona virus emerged, audacious decisions were made to avoid the worst and mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. Over the weeks, this multidimensional strategy proved its success and earned the admiration of the international community. With the launch of the national vaccination plan, the Kingdom has established itself as an African leader thanks to a strategy that has proven its effectiveness. In terms of vaccination, Morocco has vaccinated 52% of the population that is 18 million beneficiaries of which 14 are fully vaccinated, which represents 40% of the total population.
How is Morocco perceived in Australia
Since my appointment in Australia, I have not ceased to note how much Morocco is well appreciated and esteemed. The Kingdom’s long and rich history and the reforms, undertaken under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, have shaped the perception of our partners about the Kingdom. It is quite surprising and unexpected at first to see mentions of Morocco in such a geographically remote country with a relatively different culture. Yet the Morocco label is strongly present in Australia. However, what pleased me the most is to see the number of Australians who visit Morocco and who have captured the essence of our country, the richness of its history, its cultural heritage and the beauty of its landscapes. Annually, there are more Australians who travel to Morocco and every time I chat with an Australian, it never fails! Morocco is on the bucket-List of 90% of the people I meet!
. How do you assess the relations with Australia and what are the prospects for strengthening the economic and commercial relations
Relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and Australia are in good shape. They are witnessing a remarkable development in various fields. We are celebrating, this year, the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. This anniversary comes as an occasion to reflect on the evolution of this relationship and how to bring our two friendly countries closer. These relations are undergoing an excellent momentum to favor rapprochement and to seize the existing opportunities of cooperation, particularly in the economic field.
In this regard, I have been encouraging all sorts of interactions between the two private sectors in order to boost economic cooperation, investment development, and business relations. I think that Australian businessmen and investors are aware of Morocco’s position in Africa and the benefits they can get from the many free trade agreements concluded by the Kingdom. Regardless of all the challenges, the Moroccan-Australian relation keeps on moving forward and in the right direction.
. Where are Morocco’s relations are with New Zealand and the Pacific region
I would like, first, to remind you that Moroccan-New Zealand relations have experienced positive dynamics for many years. The New Zealand authorities have consistently shown their willingness to further strengthen bilateral relations with Morocco, particularly on the economic front, and recognize the Kingdom’s role as a regional leader and key economic player in Africa. But, we must also not forget that Morocco and New Zealand have a strong and longstanding commercial relationship.
As you certainly know, South-South cooperation is one of main pillars of Moroccan foreign policy. This Moroccan approach is, indeed, highly appreciated in the Pacific region. More recently, with the 3rd Morocco-Pacific States Forum, we launched action plans decided jointly with each of the participating countries, which aim to develop cooperation programs on priority themes.
. What are the priorities of Moroccan foreign policy today
Morocco has undergone profound transformations in the last decade. Its international relations have been diversified. Today, Moroccan diplomacy is focused, more than ever, on some global issues such as climate change and environment, security and stability in the region, migration issues, and the challenges of terrorism
Moroccan diplomacy knows how to be open, favoring dialogue and compromise, just as it knows how to be firm whenever the fundamentals of the Moroccan nation are at risk. It is in this spirit that the Moroccan diplomacy manages stands as a real bulwark against attempts to undermine the interests of the Kingdom. With the same firmness and determination, Moroccan diplomacy manages its relations with neighboring countries, privileging and respecting its commitments of good neighborliness and its moral obligations towards its strategic partners.
Morocco continues to strengthen its diplomatic influence within the United Nations. It resolutely pursues its contribution to the preservation and consolidation of international peace and security and to promote inclusive socio-economic development, particularly in the African continent.
8. If I understand correctly, the issue of Sahara seems to be the prime concern of your Foreign Policy. What are, then, the latest developments with regard to this issue?
The Kingdom of Morocco has shown a strong commitment to the political process of settling the Moroccan Sahara issue, under the exclusive auspices of the United Nations and has assumed its responsibilities by presenting the Autonomy initiative. By presenting this initiative, Morocco pledged its resolute and irreversible commitment to achieve a political solution clearly demonstrating its flexibility, realism, and spirit of compromise. This proposal is described as “serious, credible and realistic” by the international community as well as by the Security Council.
With regard to the recent developments, Resolution 2548 adopted on October 30, 2020, emphasizes the need to achieve a realistic, practicable, and lasting political solution to the Sahara issue based on compromise and hails the Moroccan initiative for Autonomy. The recent UN Resolution also welcomed the measures and initiatives taken by Morocco to promote and protect Human Rights in its Southern Provinces.
Those who refuse to accept such realities are still prisoners of outdated doctrines inherited from the Cold War. In the meantime, Morocco has been receiving support from many nations across the globe. In fact, 163 countries, representing 85% of United Nations member states, do not recognize the non-state armed group.
The significant growing international support of Morocco’s territorial integrity has been confirmed by the agreements covering the Sahara, which have been signed bilaterally with many African and Arab countries, as well as with the majority of G7 members, mainly with EU and the USA. Additionally, the United States in a historical move recognized the sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara and announces the opening of a Consulate General in the city of Dakhla.
In this regard, 20 other Consulates have opened their doors in the Southern Provinces of Morocco. The growing number of Consulates in the Sahara reiterates this tendency of support by the international community to the sovereignty of Morocco and to the autonomy plan as a lasting solution to this artificial dispute.
Since its return to the African Union, Morocco seems fully invested in Africa. Is it now a priority of your Foreign policy
Morocco’s African commitment continues to consolidate year after year for the benefit of a prosperous, stable and peaceful Africa and at the service of the interests of the populations of the continent. Since Morocco’s return to the African Union, the Royal commitment to the continent has been clearly illustrated by several actions. It was illustrated by the multiple Royal Visits carried out by the Sovereign in several African countries and by more than a thousand agreements and cooperation conventions signed between the Kingdom and its African partners.
The Kingdom has worked tirelessly within the framework of the reform process of the Pan-African organization, ensuring that the actions of the Union serve as a priority the security, stability, development and prosperity of the African people. The actions undertaken focused, also, on the migration issue, particularly in terms of protecting the rights of legal African migrants and to the environmental issue in Africa. Morocco has also joined the African Continental Free Trade Area which is in line with the Guidelines and the vision of HM King Mohammed VI for a highly integrated and very prosperous Africa.
. How to explain that Morocco has always been perceived as a land of tolerance and cohabitation
Morocco has never ceased to work tirelessly to promote the virtues of tolerance and dialogue between religions and cultures. Dialogue, tolerance, peace and convivial coexistence between cultures and civilizations are among of the pillars of the Moroccan personality. Indeed, Morocco represents a unique model of coexistence and convergence of civilizations, cultures and religions. Through its model, Morocco makes religion a factor of peace, ensuring that the Jewish and Christian communities live in harmony; within respect for the values of coexistence.
Coexistence and living together are therefore not empty words in Morocco. For centuries, and to this day, Jews have lived in harmony and peace alongside Muslims. In Morocco, we have managed to preserve the art of living together. As Commander of All Believers, His Majesty King Mohammed VI has never ceased to attach great importance to issues related to the dialogue of religions, civilizations, and cultures.