Morocco politics: Quick View - Morocco reaffirms solidarity with Saudi Arab
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- Economist Intelligence Unit
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Morocco's foreign minister, Salaheddine Mezouar, has confirmed the kingdom's "complete solidarity" with its ally, Saudi Arabia, against a backdrop of rising tensions between Iran and several Gulf Arab countries.
Mr Mezouar made the comments at a meeting of the council of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) in Jeddah, on January 21st. The extraordinary session was organised in response to spiralling tensions with Iran, sparked by Saudi Arabia's execution of an influential Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, in early January. The execution provoked outrage in predominantly Shia Iran, where the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad were stormed by protesters. At the January 21st meeting, OIC foreign ministers released a joint statement condemning the attacks on Saudi diplomatic posts and denouncing "Iran's interference in the internal affairs of the states of the region".
The OIC statement will exacerbate the growing divide between Iran and a number of Arab and Muslim countries, putting Morocco in a difficult position. Morocco will continue to voice unequivocal support for its long-standing ally, Saudi Arabia. The two kingdoms signed an agreement in December 2015 to strengthen their military co-operation considerably over the next decade-including through financial, technical and logistical support from Saudi Arabia-and Morocco has contributed an estimated 1,500 troops to missions under the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Morocco will also seek to preserve strategic ties with donor and investor nations in the Gulf, as it prepares to launch its Islamic finance industry in 2016-although capital inflows from the Gulf will suffer because of the global oil price slump.
And yet, Morocco will be wary of becoming involved in an unpredictable struggle between the region's main powers. Although the regional political stand-off is not expected to lead to direct armed conflict, it increases the risk that Morocco and other allies could be increasingly drawn into proxy conflicts, for example in Yemen. Mr Mezouar "vigorously condemned" the attacks against the Saudi embassy in Iran, but called on both countries to avoid a further escalation. Nonetheless, tensions between Iran and Arab Gulf countries are likely to persist in the near term.
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