French President Emmanuel Macron was in Morocco on a 24-hour visit for talks on battling terrorism as well as the Libyan conflict and Qatar’s dispute with its Gulf neighbours. Ahead of the visit, the French presidency said Macron would discuss with King Mohammed VI the dispute between Qatar and several countries, as both Paris and Rabat are keen on mediating a solution to the crisis.
As he stepped off the plane for his first visit to Morocco on Wednesday since his election in May, the French president, his wife Brigitte at his side, was welcomed on the tarmac by King Mohammed VI. The king’s wife, Princess Lala Salma, and Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, 14, were also present at the airport to greet the French first couple, who were then driven to the royal palace for talks.
The French presidency said after Macron landed in Rabat that the French president would meet separately in Paris with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and the crown prince of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The meetings are due to take place in the last week of June and are aimed at trying to defuse the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours.
The United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and other countries, accusing the gas-rich Gulf nation of supporting Islamist extremism. The crisis is the worst to grip the Gulf in years.
“President Macron has spoken with all the heads of state of the region and called for appeasement. This efforts could converge with the mediation that Morocco wants to attempt,” the Elysee Palace said ahead of the visit. A French diplomatic source said “the priority is to help resolve the crisis”.
Also on Macron’s agenda was the conflict in Libya, where the UN-backed government is struggling to impose its legitimacy. The fight against radicalisation and terrorism would also be at the centre of the talks between the two leaders, and Paris would like to “intensify” cooperation in that field, the source said. Moroccans, or people of Moroccan origin, are believed to be behind several attacks that have been carried out in Europe in the past two years.
Macron and his wife are to attend an iftar meal, to break the fast of Ramadan, at the king’s personal resident, and the French president will spend the night in Rabat before flying back home on Thursday.