French FM to head to Morocco as cooperation on Islamist militants falters

The rare diplomatic spat between Paris and Rabat first broke out last February

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France’s foreign minister will soon travel to Morocco to temper a row with its former colony almost a year after it suspended judicial cooperation between the two states leaving gaps in security coordination over Islamic militants.

The rare diplomatic spat between Paris and Rabat first broke out last February after French police went to the Moroccan Embassy in Paris seeking to question the head of the domestic intelligence service (DRT) over torture allegations.

That followed lawsuits filed against him in France by French-Moroccan activists.

The dispute prompted Morocco to suspend judicial cooperation with France, a move that activities such as joint investigations, prisoner transfers and extraditions.

That has also impacted security cooperation at a time when hundreds of French and thousands of Moroccan nationals are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which controls large swathes of those countries.

Asked in the Senate upper house of parliament what France was doing to repair its security relationship with Morocco given the context of the attacks by Islamist militants in Paris last week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said:

“Judicial and police cooperation is not an option, but an absolute obligation given the (terrorism) phenomenon ... In the hope of finding a solution to restore ties that should never have been cut with Morocco, I intend to go to Morocco soon.”

An aide to Fabius declined to give a timeframe.

There have been several other incidents that have provoked Morocco’s ire, including comments attributed to a French diplomat on Western Sahara, one of Africa’s oldest territorial feuds, that has been a sensitive issue for Morocco.

Rabat has also been keeping a close eye on relations between France and Algeria which have warmed up considerably since President Francois Hollande took office in 2012.

Speaking to Jeune Afrique on Jan. 9, Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, who met Fabius in Paris at the weekend, accused France of not having the political will to oppose anti-Moroccan feeling.

“The time of guardianship is over,” he added, asserting Morocco’s independence from France.

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