/ Africa Issued on: 31/07/2022 – 09:28
This handout picture provided by the Moroccan Royal Palace on July 30, 2022, shows Morocco’s King Mohammed VI delivering a speech to the nation, marking the 23th anniversary of his accession to the throne, in Rabat. © AFP Morocco’s King Mohammed VI used an address on Saturday to “once again” reiterate his openness to restoring ties with Algeria, which broke off diplomatic relations with Rabat last year.
“We aspire to work with the Algerian presidency so that Morocco and Algeria can work hand in hand to establish normal relations between two brotherly peoples,” Mohammed said during the traditional speech marking the anniversary of his accession to the throne.
“I stress once again that the borders that separate the Moroccan and Algerian brothers will never be barriers preventing their interaction and understanding.”
He urged Moroccans to “preserve the spirit of fraternity, solidarity and good neighbourliness towards our Algerian brothers”.
Morocco and Algeria have long been at odds over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, where the Algiers-backed Polisario Front is seeking independence from Rabat’s rule.
Algeria broke off diplomatic relations with Morocco in August 2021, accusing Rabat of “hostile acts”.
The decision was “completely unjustified,” Rabat said.
The disputed status of Western Sahara — a former Spanish colony considered a “non-autonomous territory” by the United Nations — has pitted Morocco against the Polisario Front since the 1970s.
Rabat, which controls nearly 80 percent of the territory, is pushing for autonomy under its sovereignty.
The Polisario Front, however, wants a UN-sponsored referendum on self-determination.
Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory was backed by Washington in a 2020 deal that also saw Rabat normalise ties with Israel.
Algeria, which supports the Palestinian cause in addition to the Front, has taken the opportunity to criticise Morocco’s growing military cooperation with Israel, which it refers to as the “Zionist entity”.
Referring to “allegations that Moroccans insult Algeria and Algerians”, Mohammed said they were the work of “irresponsible individuals who are trying to sow discord”.
“This gossip about Moroccan-Algerian relations is totally senseless and frankly appalling,” he added.
The king also used Saturday’s speech to pledge reform of the family code in favour of women’s rights, social protections and price controls at a time of rising inflation.
He also pledged to redouble vaccination efforts to fight Covid-19.
The reformist king, 58, has ruled Morocco since July 1999, when he succeeded his father, Hassan II.