Qatar crisis triggers Saudi-Moroccan media row

In April 2016, Gulf monarchies voiced support for Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara.

2017/07/02 Issue: 113 Page: 3

The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui

Casablanca- Morocco, a close ally of the Gulf Coopera­tion Council (GCC), said it would send planeloads of food to Qatar after Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, cut diplo­matic ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Rabat reiterated its solidarity with the GCC, saying that its deci­sion sought to bar the way to third countries that may want to exploit the situation to take positions in Qatar and the region, a reference to Iran.

Qatar imported 80% of its food from Gulf Arab neighbours before the diplomatic crisis.

Political analyst Salah Elouadie said Morocco’s stance on the Gulf crisis has been “wise.” However, the Moroccan press was attentive to expressions of discontent by Saudi media over Rabat’s stance.

News website le360, which is close to the Moroccan palace, slammed a video aired by the Sau­di-owned satellite news channel Al Arabiya Al Hadath regarding the Western Sahara dispute.

“The tone adopted by the Saudi channel has severed the official po­sition of the Saudi authorities that clearly supports Morocco’s sover­eignty over the Sahara,” said le360.

In April 2016, Gulf monarchies voiced support for Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stressed the GCC’s categorical re­jection of harm to the interests of Morocco over the territory.

Morocco annexed Western Sa­hara in 1975 and maintains it is an integral part of the kingdom. Alge­ria-backed Polisario Front separa­tists began an armed conflict with Morocco for an independent state, a fight that lasted until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

The graphic video depicts a brief explanation of the history of the Western Sahara conflict, includ­ing the essence of the speech de­livered by M’hamed Khadad, the Polisario Front coordinator at the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), call­ing for Sahrawis’ right of self-de­termination.

“Is it through the channel found­ed by [Saudi] Prince Waleed bin Ibrahim al-Ibrahim that the Saudi authorities wanted to show Moroc­co the price to pay for its neutrality on the Gulf crisis?

Al Hadath first aired the video on its YouTube channel May 22, 2016, and rebroadcast it in mid- June after Rabat’s decision to me­diate in the Gulf crisis, prompting widespread anger among Moroc­cans and raising questions about its timing.

Qatar-owned Al Jazeera satellite news channel aired excerpts of Al Hadath’s video along with a video broadcast by an Abu Dhabi chan­nel hailing Morocco as a country of co-existence between different religions and cultures. That video included a map showing Morocco separated from Western Sahara.

“I think that these videos should not be taken into consideration by Morocco since we haven’t heard any official statement from Saudi Arabia and its allies on Morocco’s initiative,” said Elouadie.

Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.

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