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Morocco is a member of the United Nations and belongs to the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movementand the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN_SAD). Morocco’s relationships vary greatly between African, Arab, and Western states. Morocco has had strong ties to the West in order to gain economic and political benefits.[1] France and Spain remain the primary trade partners, as well as the primary creditors and foreign investors in Morocco. From the total foreign investments in Morocco, the European Union invests approximately 73.5%, whereas, the Arab world invests only 19.3%. Many countries from the Gulf and Maghreb regions are getting more involved in large-scale development projects in Morocco.[2]

Foreign relations have had a significant impact on economic and social development in Morocco. Certain evidence of foreign influence is through the many development projects, loans, investments, and free trade agreements that Morocco has with other countries. Some free trade agreements include the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area agreement with the European Union; the Greater Arab Free Trade Area with Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia; as well as the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement with the United States.[3] An example of recent foreign influence is through loan agreements. Morocco just recently signed three loan agreements with the French Development Agency (AFD) totalling up to 155 million euros. These are for the purpose of reforming the education system, rural roads and rehabilitation, as well as infrastructure projects.[4]

There are many reasons why foreign powers have chosen to establish relations with Morocco. These factors are important to analyze because it shows that relationships are based on specific considerations. For example, Morocco had to be perceived as a democracy before receiving major loans and investments from western states.

Morocco’s relations with foreign powers are determined by numerous factors, which are listed below:


Factors Influencing Foreign Relations

Role of Political Organization

Policies associated with foreign relations are determined by the king, King Mohamed VI, and his advisors, despite the fact that Morocco has a constitutional monarchy.[1] Morocco has had a history of monarch rule. For example, the king of Morocco in 1965 suspended parliament and ruled as a dictator for two years. This was in response to the discovery of a plot on the king’s life, of which the political party, UNFP, was accused. Foreign relations with western powers became strained as a result of this. Portraying Morocco as a democratic state became important if Morocco wished to receive loans and investments by foreign powers.[5]

Role of Colonialism

Morocco’s current relations with some countries are related to its colonial history. Morocco was secretly partitioned by Spain and France and in 1912 Morocco became a protectorate. Despite achieving autonomy in 1956, Morocco still has a strong relationship with its former colonizers. Spain and France are currently the largest exporting and importing partners to Morocco. French is still popularly spoken and remains the second language in Morocco. France now is home to more than a million Moroccans legally residing in the country. This is the largest population of Moroccans in a country, followed next by Spain. These former colonizers remain influential in economic matters, such as development projects, investments, trade, and loans.[6]

This relationship can be perceived as an example of postcolonialism because despite Morocco’s sovereignty, it is still being influenced economically. The trend for decolonization grew popular after World War II because many of the European powers were facing financial difficulties from the high costs of war. Colonies were granted autonomy in order for the colonizer to cut its costs. This was a similar situation with France because it was financing the conflicts in Algeria so in 1956 France decided to give Morocco autonomy.[7] Spain and France do not have official control over Morocco now; however, they still receive major economic benefits through tax exemptions and cheap labour without having any financial obligation to support the country. There are many instances where Spain and France are trying to gain control of major resources in Morocco. For example, Morocco has protested Spain’s control of the coastal cities Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon and it has had conflicts over the fishing waters surrounding Morocco.[8]

Role of Free Market

Relations with foreign powers, especially with the West, have also been strengthened as Morocco has liberalized its economy and implemented major economic reforms. In 1993 there was major privatization and markets were opened up to foreign powers.[9] Morocco now is focusing more on promoting foreign direct investments. In 2007, Morocco adopted the Hassan II Fund for Development, which are measures that simplify procedures to make the process easier and more financially beneficial for foreign investors. This was done with financial incentives, as well as tax exemptions. These policies make it beneficial for other countries to have relations with Morocco so that they can take advantage of their goods. Morocco’s exports are mainly agriculture, and it is one of the largest exporters of phosphate in the world. In addition, Morocco has rich fishing waters, a tourist industry, and a small manufacturing sector.

Role of Foreign Policy Support

Morocco also gains financial support from countries that it assists. For example, Morocco has had a long history of supporting the United States and it has received financial support as a result. Moroccan troops were involved in Bosnia as well as in Somalia, during the operation Desert Storm. Morocco also was among the first Arab and Islamic states to denounce the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in the United States and declare solidarity with the American people in the war against terror.[8] It has contributed to UN peacekeeping efforts on the continent. In 1998, the U.S. Defence Secretary, William Cohen, said that Morocco and the U.S. have “mutual concerns over transnational terrorism” as well as interests in “the effort to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction”.[10] In recognition of its support for the War on Terrorism, in June 2004 U.S. President George W. Bush designated Morocco as a major non-NATO ally. Another case of mutual foreign policy interests is with Saudi Arabia. Ties between these countries were strengthened when Morocco sent troops to help Saudi Arabia during the 1992 Gulf War. This was perceived as a “gesture to support Western and Arab allies”. Morocco’s relationship to countries in the Middle East and its contribution to the Palestinian cause have created stronger relations between these countries.[11]

Role of Immigration

Another factor determining relations is how much immigration the country receives from Morocco. The beginning of major migration to Europe began during the colonial era (1912 to 1956). During World War I and II, France had an urgent need for manpower, which led to the recruitment of tens of thousands of Moroccan men to work in factories, mines, and in the army.[7] Another increase in immigration from Morocco to France was during the Algerian war of independence. France stopped recruiting workers from Algeria and instead accepted more Moroccan factory and mine labourers. Immigration increased even further from 1962-1972 when economic growth in Europe occurred, which led to a greater demand for low-skilled labour. At this time, Morocco signed major labour recruitment agreements with European countries, such as France, West Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. This led to a more diverse spread of emigration, which until this time was focused primarily on the country of France.

Role of Global Identity

Morocco’s perceived identity plays a role in its relations with other countries. Numerous countries have strong relations with Morocco because of its history of being a western ally. For example, Morocco has one of the longest friendship treaties with the United States. This is important for US interests because Morocco is a stable, democratizing, and liberalizing Arab Muslim nation. Geopolitical benefits are evident because ties to Morocco means that an ally is established in Africa, in the Maghreb region, and among the Arab states. Morocco’s identity as an Arab Muslim state has also strengthened ties with the gulf countries as a result of 9/11 and the “war on terror”. This has resulted in countries, such as the GCC (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates), choosing to invest more in the Arab world.[12] Many countries in the Maghreb region also invest in Morocco because of perceived similarities in identity.

Maghreb and Africa

Morocco is very active in Maghreb and African affairs. The Arab Maghreb Union is made up of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, and Tunisia.[13] Although no longer a member of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) since November 12, 1984—following the admission of the Polisario Front as the government of Western Sahara — Morocco remains involved in developing the regional economy, as the city of Casablanca contains North Africa's busiest port and serves as the country's economic center. There are significant ties with West African and Sahel countries and Morocco entertains good relationships with Senegal, Gabon and Burkina Faso.[14][15]

The major issue in Morocco’s foreign relations is its claim to Western Sahara.


As a result of Algeria’s continued support for the Polisario Front in the dispute over Western Sahara, relations between Morocco and Algeria have remained strained over the past several decades. The state of the relationships between the two neighboring countries has hindered bilateral collaboration and has left the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) project almost inactive.[16]


Prior to the December 1984 coup that brought Taya to power, the Mauritanian-Moroccan cooperation agency stated that relations between the two countries were on the mend in spite of alleged Moroccan complicity in a 1981 coup attempt and Mauritania's subsequent turn toward Algeria. Representatives from both sides initiated a series of low-level contacts that led to a resumption of diplomatic ties in April 1985. For Mauritania, the détente with Morocco promised to end the threat of Moroccan incursions, and it also removed the threat of Moroccan support for opposition groups formed during the Haidalla presidency. Through the agreement with Mauritania, Morocco sought to tighten its control over the Western Sahara by denying the Polisario one more avenue for infiltrating guerrillas into the disputed territory.[17]

Relations between Morocco and Mauritania continued to improve through 1986, reflecting President Taya's pragmatic, if unstated, view that only a Moroccan victory over the Polisario would end the guerrilla war in the Western Sahara. Taya made his first visit to Morocco in October 1985 (prior to visits to Algeria and Tunisia) in the wake of Moroccan claims that Polisario guerrillas were again traversing Mauritanian territory. The completion of a sixth berm just north of Mauritania's crucial rail link along the border with the Western Sahara, between Nouadhibou and the iron ore mines, complicated relations between Mauritania and Morocco. Polisario guerrillas in mid-1987 had to traverse Mauritanian territory to enter the Western Sahara, a situation that invited Morocco's accusations of Mauritanian complicity. Moreover, any engagements near the sixth berm would threaten to spill over into Mauritania and jeopardize the rail link.[17]

Western Sahara conflict

States recognizing the SADR.

The conflict for this area continues to affect Morocco’s relations with Spain, Algeria, and other Maghreb nations. The issue of sovereignty over Western Sahara remains unresolved. The territory—an area of wasteland and desert bordering the Atlantic Ocean between Mauritania and Morocco—is contested by Morocco and the Polisario (an independence movement based in the region of Tindouf, Algeria). Morocco's claim to sovereignty over the Sahara is based largely on an historical argument of traditional loyalty of the Sahrawi tribal leaders to the Moroccan sultan as spiritual leader and ruler. The Polisario Front claims to represent the aspirations of the Western Saharan inhabitants for independence. Algeria claims none of the territory for itself but maintains that Sahrawis should determine the territory’s future status.

From 1904 until 1975, Spain occupied the entire territory, which is divided into a northern portion, the Saguia el-Hamra, and a southern two-thirds, known as Río de Oro. In 1973, the Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro) formed to combat the Spanish occupation of the territory. In November 1975, King Hassan mobilized 350,000 unarmed Moroccan citizens in what came to be known as the “Green March” into Western Sahara. The march was designed to both demonstrate and strengthen Moroccan claims to the territory. On November 14 of the same year, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania announced a tripartite agreement for an interim administration under which Spain agreed to share administrative authority with Morocco and Mauritania, leaving aside the question of sovereignty. With the establishment of a Moroccan and Mauritanian presence throughout the territory, however, Spain’s role in the administration of the Western Sahara ceased altogether.

After a period of hostilities, Mauritania withdrew from the territory in 1979 and signed a peace treaty with the Polisario relinquishing all claims to the territory. Moroccan troops took control of the region vacated by Mauritania and later proclaimed the territory reintegrated into Morocco. Morocco subsequently built the Moroccan Wall, a network of fortified berms around the largest portion of Western Sahara and has since asserted administrative control over that territory. Polisario remains in control over the easternmost part of the territory.

At the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in June 1981, King Hassan announced his willingness to hold a referendum in the Western Sahara. Subsequent meetings of an OAU Implementation Committee proposed a cease-fire, a UN peacekeeping force, and an interim administration to assist with an OAU-UN-supervised referendum on the issue of independence or annexation. In 1984, the OAU seated a delegation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the shadow government of the Polisario; Morocco, consequently, withdrew from the OAU.

In 1988, Moroccan and Polisario representatives agreed on a UN peace plan. A UN-brokered cease-fire and settlement plan went into effect on September 6, 1991. Implementation of the settlement plan, which calls for a popular referendum among the Sahrawi natives of the territory to determine its final status (integration into Morocco or independence), has been repeatedly postponed because of differences between the parties. In 2003 the UN launched the Baker Plan, allowing Moroccan settlers the vote and instituting a five-year Sahrawi autonomous rule under Moroccan sovereignty before the referendum. This plan won the unanimous approval of the Security Council through SC Resolution 1495, and was unexpectedly accepted by the Polisario. Morocco however refused the plan, stating that it is no longer willing to accept a referendum that includes the possibility of independence, but that it is willing to discuss an autonomy-based solution. This deadlocked the process, and the future of UN involvement is uncertain. Sahrawi demonstrations and riots that broke out in the Moroccan-held parts of Western Sahara further strained relations between the parties.

The United States has consistently supported the cease-fire and the UN’s efforts at finding a peaceful settlement. While recognizing Morocco’s administrative control of Western Sahara, and generally supportive of the Moroccan government, the United States has not endorsed the country's claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara. In the UN Security Council, France has proved the strongest backer of the Moroccan view.

On December 27, 2005, Sudan became the first state to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara.


Morocco's stance is supporting the search for peace in the Middle East, encouraging Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and urging moderation on both sides. In 1986, then King Hassan II took the daring step of inviting then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres for talks, becoming only the second Arab leader to host an Israeli leader. Following the September 1993 signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, Morocco accelerated its economic ties and political contacts with Israel. In September 1994, Morocco and Israel announced the opening of bilateral liaison offices. These offices were closed in 2000 following sustained Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Morocco maintains close relations with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, which have provided Morocco with substantial amounts of financial assistance. Morocco was the first Arab state to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and sent troops to help defend Saudi Arabia. Morocco also was among the first Arab and Islamic states to denounce the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in the United States and declare solidarity with the American people in the war against terrorism. It has contributed to UN peacekeeping efforts on the continent. In recognition of its support for the War on Terrorism, in June 2004 U.S. President George W. Bush designated Morocco as a major non-NATO ally.


Morocco and Egypt are both signers of the Agadir Agreement for the Establishment of a Free Trade Zone between the Arabic Mediterranean Nations, signed in Rabat, Morocco on February 25, 2004.[18] The agreement aimed at establishing a free trade area between Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco and it was seen as a possible first step in the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area as envisaged in the Barcelona Process.[19] They are also founding members of GAFTA, a pact made by the Arab League to achieve a complete Arab economic bloc that can compete internationally.

In 1999 Egypt renewed backing to Morocco's territorial integrity.[20] "Egypt has always backed Morocco's efforts to perfect its territorial integrity," Egyptian deputy minister of foreign affairs, Jamal-Eddine Bayoumi told Moroccan daily Al-Mounaataf, referring to Morocco's conquest and occupation of Western Sahara. Bayoumi also stressed the need for Morocco and Egypt to consolidate trade relations among Arab states.


On March 6, 2009, Morocco severed diplomatic relations with Iran after comments made by an Iranian politician that Bahrain was historically part of Iran and as such still had a seat in the Iranian Parliament.[21] Morocco described the comments as an attempt to "alter the religious fundamentals of the kingdom",[22] and accused Tehran of attempting to spread Shia Islam.[23] Morocco is a majority Sunni country and Bahrain, despite having a large Shi'ite population, is ruled by a Sunni elite which has not allowed the Shi'ites into the power structure.[24] Iran, a majority Shia country, reportedly has an interest in empowering the Shi'ites in Bahrain in order to raise its own status in the Persian Gulf, which has strained relations between Morocco and Iran.[24] The episode was the latest in a series of events that have weakened relations between the two countries over recent years, particularly regarding the "hard-line" leadership in Iran, who have in the past called into question the legitimacy of Bahrain's King. Morocco has cut relations with Iran once before in 1980, after the Iranian Revolution.[22][25]


European Union

Morocco maintains close relations with the European Union, especially with the former colonial rulers, France and Spain. On October 2008, Morocco was granted a special partnership status with the EU (labelled 'advanced status') in response to the reforms undertaken at the political, social and economic levels.[26] With that, Morocco became the first country in the southern Mediterranean region to benefit from the advanced status in its relations with the EU.[27] The status include the establishment of an EU-Morocco summit and a direct participation of Morocco in a number of EU ministerial councils and working group meetings. Morocco has been afforded the privilege of having her currency unit linked to the Euro.


France showed early interests in Morocco and in 1904, the United Kingdom recognized France's sphere of influence in the region. France and Spain secretly partitioned Morocco, despite the evident disagreements this caused with Germany. The Treaty of Fes in 1912 made Morocco a protectorate of France. Struggles and opposition ensued when France exiled the Sultan Mohammed V, replacing him with Mohammed Ben Aarafa. The development of a strong independence movement together with a common trend of decolonization led to Morocco being granted autonomy in 1956.[28]


The Treaty of Fes also allocated the northern part of Morocco as a Spanish protectorate. There were many instances of resistance to protest against Spanish exploitation of Morocco. The independence of this region was gained at the same time that France withdrew control. Unlike France, Spain still maintains control on some regions, such as Ceuta and Melila in northern Morocco. Tensions also increased with conflicts over the fishing water surrounding Morocco, the island of Perejil, and the Western Sahara.[29]

European Countries

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Bulgaria 1961-09-11
 Croatia 1992-06-26
 Finland See Foreign relations of Finland
 Greece See Foreign relations of Greece
 Romania 1962-02-20 See Morocco–Romania relations
 Russia See Morocco–Russia relations

Russia has an embassy in Rabat, and a consular office in Casablanca. Morocco is represented in Russia by its embassy to Moscow. Former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had paid a visit to Morocco in September 2006 in order to boost economic and military ties between Russia and Morocco.

 Serbia 1956

Spain controls five "places of sovereignty" (Plazas de soberanía) on and off the north Africa coast: Ceuta and Melilla, as well as the islets of Peñón de Alhucemas, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, and Islas Chafarinas, all contested by Morocco (see Perejil for the related incident).

 Turkey See Moroccan–Turkish relations
 United Kingdom See Morocco–United Kingdom relations

Morocco–United Kingdom relations cover a period from the 16th century to the present day.

Relations with the United States

The last page of 1786 treaty of friendship.

Morocco has close and long-standing ties with the United States. Morocco was the first nation to recognize the fledgling United States as an independent nation in 1777.[36] In the beginning of the American Revolution, American merchant ships were subject to attack by the Barbary Pirates while sailing the Atlantic Ocean. At this time, American envoys tried to obtain protection from European powers, but to no avail. On December 20, 1777, Morocco's Sultan Mohammed III declared that the American merchant ships would be under the protection of the sultanate and could thus enjoy safe passage.

The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship stands as the U.S.'s oldest non-broken friendship treaty. Negotiated by Thomas Barclay and signed by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1786, it has been in continuous effect since its ratification by Congress in July 1787.[37] Following the re-organization of the U.S. federal government upon the 1787 Constitution, President George Washington wrote a now venerated letter to the Sultan Sidi Mohamed strengthening the ties between the two countries. The United States legation (consulate) in Tangier is the first property the American government ever owned abroad.[38] The building now houses the Tangier American Legation Museum.

Rest of world


Argentina recognized Morocco’s independence in 1956. Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1960. Argentina has an embassy in Rabat. Morocco has an embassy in Buenos Aires. Argentina is (traditionally) second most populated country to recognice Moroccan sovereignty over "Il Provincia del Sur". It seems only the Kingdom of Morocco and the P.R China have provided a more credit to the viewpoints of the Kingdom of Morocco on this matter.



Pakistan has an embassy in Rabat while Morocco also has its embassy in Islamabad. Both the countries have co-operated significantly since the past and continue to widely expand their relations, in the past Pakistan has said that it does not recognise Western Sahara and that its status is disputed and remains to be decided by UN Resolutions, but at the same time it gave the Moroccan point of view that it is an internal matter.


  1. ^ a b "Ecyclopedia of the Nations: Morocco Foreign Policy". Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  2. ^ "GCC Countries Invest Heavily in Morocco". Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  3. ^ "Medibtikar: EuroMed Innovation and Technology Program". Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  4. ^ "Morocco Signs 155 Million Euro Loan Agreement With France". Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  5. ^ "Looklex Encyclopaedia: Morocco History". Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Morocco Since 1830: A History. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Relations Maroc-Afrique subsaharienne : L'amorce d'une nouvelle ère". Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  15. ^ "Gabon-Maroc : Relance significative de la coopération économique". Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  16. ^ "Algerian-Moroccan dispute frustrates regional integration". Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  17. ^ a b Handloff, Robert E. "Relations with France". In Mauritania: A Country Study (Robert E. Handloff, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (June 1988). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  18. ^ "Full text of the Agreement (English version)". 
  19. ^ Wippel, Steffen. "The Agadir Agreement and Open regionalism" (PDF). 
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Morocco cuts relations with Iran". BBC News. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  22. ^ a b "Morocco severs relations with Iran". Yahoo News. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  23. ^ "Morocco severs Iran relations". Denver Post. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  24. ^ a b "Iran says Morocco's move to cut ties harms unity". CNN. 2009-03-07. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  25. ^ "Morocco severs relations with Iran". Al Jazeera. 
  26. ^ "EU tightens Moroccan ties with 'advanced status' deal". Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  27. ^ "Advanced status, rewards Morocco's reform process". Maghreb Arabe Presse. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Bulgarian embassy in Rabat
  31. ^ Moroccan embassy in Bucharest
  32. ^ Romanian embassy in Rabat (in French and Romanian only)
  33. ^ Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: direction of the Moroccan embassy in Belgrade
  34. ^ Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: direction of the Serbian embassy in Rabat
  35. ^ Moroccan embassy in Turkey
  36. ^ "Cohen Renews U.S.-Morocco Ties" (mil). U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  37. ^ Roberts, Priscilla H. and Richard S. Roberts, Thomas Barclay (1728-1793: Consul in France, Diplomat in Barbary, Lehigh University Press, 2008, pp. 206-223.
  38. ^ "Milestones of American Diplomacy, Interesting Historical Notes, and Department of State History". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 

External links


  • Morocco Foreign Policy and Government Guide (ISBN 978-0-7397-6000-0)
  • Analyzing Moroccan Foreign Policy and Relations with Europe (DOI: 10.1080/1475355032000240658)

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