Tensions between Morocco, Saudi Arabia escalates over Yemen, Western Sahara

Sergio Conner
February 12, 2019

The Official Spokesman of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, Colonel Turki Al-Malki, stated: "the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition carried out a military operation to destroy a legitimate military target, a location used by the Houthi militia to store and prepare the launch of UAVs for terrorist attacks in the capital Sanaa", the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The ambassador explained to the daily "le360" the reason for his return to Rabat, adding that "relations between Morocco and Saudi Arabia are stable and historic but divergences are normal from time to time".

The Coalition, under the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, confirms its support and dedication to relief efforts to the brotherly Yemeni people, and reiterates its support for the Stockholm Agreement and the United Nations sponsored peace process, led by Martin Griffiths, in accordance with UNSC resolutions, the GCC Initiative, and outcomes of the Yemeni national dialogue.

After Bourita's interview, Saudi television channel Al Arabiya aired a documentary on the disputed Western Sahara, supporting claims that Morocco invaded it after Spanish colonisers left in 1975. Morocco considers the Western Sahara its southern territories.

Morocco is not now taking part in military interventions or ministerial meetings in the Saudi-led coalition, according to a Moroccan government official.

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Meanwhile, the Coalition has viewed with concern media reports alleging the transfer of U.S. military weapons to the Iranian backed Houthi militias and AQAP in Yemen.

The Al Arabiya documentary was described by Moroccan commentators as a stab in the back that was aired out of the blue to irk Morocco after Moroccan foreign minister gave an interview to Qatari news channel Al jazeera.

2018 has seen rising tensions between the two historical allies, with a series of tit-for-tat moves showing the two kingdoms' discontent over each other's diplomatic standing, concurrently with the rise to power of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The war has killed thousands and displaced over 3 million people.

Morocco did not voice support for Saudi Arabia in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October and the Saudi crown prince was not received in Morocco previous year while on a North African tour.

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