Morocco does not respond to French offer to join earthquake relief efforts

by MMC
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Morocco did not respond to an initial offer from France to join international efforts to help victims of Friday’s powerful earthquake, in an apparent diplomatic snub to one of its largest economic partners.

President Emmanuel Macron The country was quick to offer French aid to its former colony after Friday night’s earthquake, which it called “a tragedy that affects us all.”

“We have mobilized all the technical and security teams to be ready to intervene when the Moroccan authorities deem it useful,” he declared on Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in India.

“As soon as we receive a request for help, it will be deployed. It is obviously up to the Moroccan authorities to decide what they need,” he added.

A few 2,681 people died during Friday evening’s earthquake which destroyed many mountain villages in this North African country.

However, as of Monday afternoon, the fact that Morocco had preferred to accept aid from the United Kingdom, Spain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which caused concern in some French media, presenting this as another sign of poor relations between France and the Morocco.

The kingdom has also not given the green light to offers of aid from the United States, Israel and Turkey, which experienced their own earthquakes this year.

Catherine Colonna, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, sought to calm the controversy. “We have offered our help, as around sixty countries have done, and Morocco sovereignly decides who to call on,” she declared Monday on BFMTV. “We must respect this decision. It’s their country. . . and we have full confidence in the authorities to organize the response.

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron, President of France, said: “As soon as we receive a request for aid, it will be deployed” © Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

France is one of Morocco’s main trading partners, one of the main sources of its foreign investments and is home to around 1.5 million Moroccans, including more than 600,000 dual nationals.

But relations between France and Morocco have been strained in recent years. Rabat has not had an ambassador in Paris since January and Macron’s planned visit to the kingdom has been postponed several times.

One issue concerns the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which Rabat wants France to recognize as Moroccan. But Paris has not followed the example of the United States, which formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty in the region in 2020.

Another source of tension lies in Macron’s long-standing efforts to improve French relations with AlgeriaMorocco’s regional rival and main supporter of the Polisario Front which seeks independence for Western Sahara.

Lingering bitterness remains over allegations in 2021 that Morocco installed spyware on smartphones belonging to Macron and French government ministers. Rabat denied purchasing or using the spyware.

“One of the explanations why we did not accept this offer is that it is a message from Morocco addressed to France, saying that it is not because there was an earthquake that we have become weak and that we will accept French aid,” said a European analyst.

Lahcen Haddad, member of the Moroccan Senate and co-president of the European Parliament/Morocco joint committee, denied that Rabat had rejected French support.

“When we need it, we’ll ask for it,” he said. “I think the French media tried to tell us how and what to do. Do they think Morocco is so poor and backward that we can’t do anything ourselves?

He added that Morocco still had to take stock of the situation and the needs of the affected population. “It’s a devastated area. Communities have been uprooted and people need tents and other things, and then we will have to rebuild. The French and the whole world will be able to help.

Maps showing earthquakes in and around Morocco of magnitude 5.0 and above since 1900

Haddad noted that the devastated villages near the quake’s epicenter were in difficult-to-reach mountainous areas and that the main problem until Sunday evening was reaching remote villages. “The (Moroccan) army knows the terrain,” he said.

Caroline Holt, head of operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said having more aid workers on the ground would not necessarily be effective until roads were cleared to access the villages affected.

“In the most accessible places, the army, civil defense and the Red Crescent intervened,” she explained. “Access is the key issue. These mountain roads, even at the best of times, can be very difficult.

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