(Interview) Mohammed Ali Lazreq, Ambassador to Turkey: “Morocco, headed by HM King Mohammed VI, holds near to heart and mind the Palestinian people and State”
His excellency, Morocco’s Ambassador to Turkey, Mohammed Ali Lazreq, has provided MoroccoTelegraph news outlet with the following answers to five questions during the interview we had the chance to hold.
His excellency provided us with his insights towards issues related to bilateral relations between Morocco and Turkey and their future prospective ties.
1. How does your Excellency perceive the future of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Rabat?
This relationship is very ancient. It goes back to the 16th century when the Sultans of the Saadian and then Alaouite Dynasties had very cordial ties with the Ottoman Sultans.
On March 2nd, 1956, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of Turkey established diplomatic relations. Since then, bilateral bonds have continued to develop, as shown by the rich and diversified legal framework between our two nations, covering several fields: political, economic, technical, cultural, industrial, touristic and handcraft.
On the political level, relations between the two countries are mainly based on:
- Mutual and unambiguous support for territorial integrity and the rejection of separatism;
- Convergence of views on several international issues;
- Good cooperation within international bodies through reciprocal support of candidacies of each side.
On the economic level, 2004 marked a turning point in our bilateral ties, with the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA). Other instruments and measures were also set up in parallel, in order to promote investment and enhance business climate, such as the double taxation convention or the twinning between the ports of Istanbul and Casablanca.
From my perspective, these ties hold a lot of potential, given the strategic role each country grasps in its own region. Furthermore, our countries share the common space of the Mediterranean where joint efforts and cooperation between Rabat and Ankara can enhance security and commercial and cultural blossom.
Thus, it is our duty, as diplomats, to contribute to the strengthening and development of the cooperation between Morocco and Turkey, to raise it to the level of the actual qualifications of both countries.
In this context, I am thinking in particular of the cultural cooperation, which, in my point of view, is an excellent vector for people-to-people connectivity, especially since Morocco and Turkey enjoy rich and diverse cultural heritages from their respective civilizations.
2. Morocco and Turkey have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding. How could this MoU enforce and develop economic relations between the two countries?
This MoU signed on January 12th, 2020, between the Competition Council of the Kingdom of Morocco and the National Competition Authority of the Republic of Turkey aims to promote bilateral cooperation between the two institutions in the field of competition policies and the enforcement of current competition laws in the two countries.
Through this agreement, the two parties will now be able to exchange information relating to legislative developments in competition law and economics, in their respective countries.
They will also be able to capitalize on their know-how and expertise in the field of infringement of competition rules, and enrich their respective experiences in the area of governance of relations between national competition authorities and national regulatory bodies.
It is for all these reasons that I can affirm that this MoU will contribute significantly to the development of economic relations between the two countries, through the two aforementioned institutions, by enabling them to strengthen their institutional capacities, especially in the context of the new post-covid19 global system.
3. Following the statement of Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs concerning Morocco’s resuming relations with Israel and how it shouldn’t affect the Palestinian case. How does your Excellency perceive this declaration?
Firstly, allow me to correct a misconception that we have been encountering the late period. The Kingdom of Morocco and the State of Israel are not normalizing, we are resuming our relation.
In fact, Rabat and Tel Aviv normalized their relation in 1993 and kept running liaison offices, in both cities, for almost a decade. The Kingdom was hailed and congratulated by many countries and international institutions, upon the declaration of resuming of relations with Israel. This only testifies of the key role Morocco holds in the International arena, regarding regional and international issues. On top of which the Palestine cause.
The declaration of His Excellency Mr. Mevlüt ÇAVÜSOGLU, Minister of Foreign Affairs, came in the same context. It was the expression of the Turkish acknowledgment of Morocco’s important and crucial role in the Palestinian cause, amongst others.
However, as much as we understand the concern of our brotherly Turkish counterparts over the Palestinian issue, assurances could only be given to the protagonists.
The Kingdom of Morocco, headed by His Majesty King Mohammed the Sixth, holds near to heart and mind the Palestinian people and State. Thus, His Majesty stated, at several occasions, the utmost importance and priority he gives to this issue, that is of the same level of significance as Morocco’s Sahara and territorial integrity cause.
In fact, His Majesty, in his capacity as Chairman of Al-Quds Committee, made a point to present to His Excellency President Mahmud ABBAS of the Palestinian authority, the assurances of the immutability of Morocco’s stance. It is not fortuity that these assurances were given few hours apart from the phone call that His Majesty had with the former American President.
His Majesty also emphasized and clarified this stand during the phone conversation with Prime Minister Benyamin NETENYAHU, during which Morocco’s “consistent, constant, and unchanged position” about the Palestinian cause was reiterated.
Consequently, the whole world needs to rest assured that Morocco, under the wise leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed Sixth, is determined to keep promoting peace and stability in the Middle East. It is our understanding that this can be possible through a final and comprehensive solution through talks between Israel and Palestine. It is why we remain attached to the right of the Palestinians to establish their independent state.
4. How do you work to promote diplomatic and economic relations between Ankara and Rabat? Different media outlets expect an exchange of visits between HM King Mohammed VI and Erdogan. Is there going to be an exchange of visits in the near future between the two countries?
As mentioned before, the History rooted relation between Morocco and Turkey makes that our nations can only cooperate further towards promoting these strong and multidimensional ties.
In my capacity as Ambassador of His Majesty King Mohammed the Sixth to the Republic of Turkey, I am invested in this path and I am glad to acknowledge how all the Turkish counterparts and partners I have met, since my posting, have shown as much enthusiasm and readiness to work together in this perspective.
It is, indeed, a Moroccan diplomacy’s base line to establish and maintain bilateral relations with countries with which we share points of views, interests and, most importantly, mutual respect for respective paradigms.
As for the exchange of visits between both Heads of States, invitations were in fact presented from both sides and the visits’ details will be settled through the proper diplomatic channels.
5. How will the implementation of the latest Moroccan Free Trade Agreement amendments push forward Turkish-Moroccan economic relations?
Morocco and Turkey have very close relations in all fields, and the economic dimension is no exception. In fact, Moroccan-Turkish economic relations are particularly strong, and have been further strengthened since the signing of the free trade agreement between the two countries in 2004, which since its entry into force in 2006, has boosted our bilateral trade significantly.
However, the exponential development of bilateral trade has occurred disproportionately, causing a chronic imbalance in the trade balance, to the detriment of Morocco. In addition, Turkish exports to our country have put some sectors of the national economy in difficulty, especially textiles.
This finding prompted the competent Moroccan authorities to carry out an overall assessment of the situation, the results of which turned out to be negative and pushed the same authorities to draw the attention of their Turkish counterparts to the need to remedy this inconvenience.
In this context, it is important to emphasize that the amendment signed in August 2020, aiming to give more balance to this FTA, was on the one hand, the result of numerous meetings and rounds of negotiations between the experts of our two countries, and on the other hand, a clear and tangible proof of the excellent ties linking Rabat and Ankara, and the spirit which characterizes them, always prioritizing communication and dialogue as the only means to overcome obstacles and come up with lasting solutions.
Thus, I am confident that the signing of the FTA’s amendment will breathe new life into the economic and trade relations binding our two nations, will enable them to become sustainable and will help to open up new perspectives and offer new opportunities to develop them, taking into consideration other aspects as important as trade, such as Investment.