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Morocco ‘hurt’ by ‘France’s mistress’ label

French diplomat: Morocco is a ‘mistress with whom we sleep every night’

Mustapha Ajbaili

Published: Updated:

Recent remarks attributed to French Ambassador to the United States François Delattre describing Morocco as his country’s “mistress” have dealt a blow to the strong ties between the traditional allies.

Citing Spanish filmmaker and actor Javier Bardem, author of a documentary on the disputed Western Sahara, the French daily Le Monde quoted Delattre as saying that Morocco is a “mistress with whom we sleep every night, of whom we are not particularly in love, but we must defend.”

Morocco’s Islamist-led government immediately condemned the statements as “hurtful” and “demeaning,” in a statement carried by the MAP news agency.

A visit to Morocco scheduled on Monday by Nicolas Hulot, a special envoy of the French President for the Planet’s Protection, was postponed, Information Minister Mustafa al-Khalfi told Al Arabiya News.

He said Morocco’s ambassador to France also held a meeting on Monday with French officials at the foreign ministry in Paris about the issue. The minister said there were “successive developments.”

‘Taking appropriate measures’

Khalfi said the kingdom is “confident that France will take appropriate measures to lift the injustice and damage that resulted from those expressions and words.”

The minister noted that the French ambassador to Washington has not confirmed or denied the statements attributed to him.

In an interview with Al Arabiya News, Mohammad Benhamou, president of Morocco’s Center for Strategic Studies, said the statements attributed to the French diplomat were part of a campaign led by Morocco’s arch foes Algeria and the secessionist Polisario Front.

“The statements attributed to the French ambassador were publicized days after Algeria and Polisario kicked off in France a campaign against Morocco with the screening of Bardem’s documentary film,” Benhamou added.

“Morocco and France enjoy strong diplomatic and economic ties and it is very important to know in whose interest it is to have those ties disrupted,” Benhamou said.

Calming the storm

He noted, however, that Morocco’s “strong and quick reaction” was a sign that the kingdom will not tolerate “tampering with its dignity” by an ally. He said France is unlikely to jeopardize its ties with Morocco and will seek to provide an explanation and calm the situation.

The diplomatic spat is taking place on the backdrop of another row between the two allies.

Morocco’s Foreign Ministry summoned on Saturday the French ambassador to Rabat to protest a lawsuit brought in Paris against the head of the country's domestic intelligence for his alleged involvement in the torture of prisoners.

Moroccan activists living in France had filed the lawsuit against the Moroccan intelligence service, known as DST (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire), accusing it of torturing them while detained in Morocco.

During a visit to Paris last week, DST chief Abdellatif Hammouchi reportedly escaped arrest when police enquired about him at the Moroccan embassy.

“It is a serious and unprecedented incident regarding the relationship between the two countries which could affect the climate of confidence and mutual respect between Morocco and France,”Morocco’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The French Foreign Ministry described the incident as “regrettable” saying an investigation was opened.