Emirates Leaks

Emirates Leaks: a worsening crisis in relations between UAE and Morocco

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Relations between Morocco and the United Arab Emirates have deteriorated further amid worsening accusations from Rabat to Abu Dhabi of sabotage in the kingdom.

Moroccan media reported that the UAE ambassador to Rabat, Ali Salem al-Kaabi, left Morocco on the basis of an “urgent sovereign request” from Abu Dhabi.

The Moroccan Akhbar al-Youm newspaper said that Al-Kaabi left Morocco last week suddenly.

The Moroccan newspaper pointed out that the UAE ambassador, who did not complete his first year as an ambassador yet, left at a sovereign request, without explaining the reasons.

There was no official comment, either by the Moroccan authorities or the UAE, on the news.

On April 8, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita held a Gulf tour that included Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar and did not include the UAE.

During the Gulf crisis, Morocco opted for neutrality and offered mediation between the countries of the blockade, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Qatar.

Relations between the two countries have been strained recently after the Saudi media broadcasts from the UAE mentioned Western Sahara. In February, the two countries recalled their ambassadors for consultations.

The disagreements began to appear for the first time between the UAE and Morocco since late 2017, and they were light, but soon turned into a clear strategic sorting on several files and issues.

The most prominent of these issues was the interference in the affairs of Libya and Yemen through the Qatar siege, then targeting the Moroccan interests in West Africa, and the intervention of the UAE in Mauritania, the southern neighbor of Morocco.

The crisis reached its peak with Morocco withdrawing its ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for consultation in February, in addition to statements by the Associated Press of Moroccan officials that Rabat withdrew from the Saudi-UAE alliance in Yemen in the same period as the two ambassadors.

It seems that what was formerly a hidden diplomatic conflict has recently come to the public through a “media war,” which huge funds are used to buy writers and news sites and establishing television channels directed to Morocco.

In February, Al Arabiya, which is close to the ruling authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, broadcasted a report on Western Sahara. The report adopted the version that indicates “the Moroccan invasion of the Sahara in 1975 after the end of the Spanish colonization.”

The report described the Polisario Front the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and the famous Valley of Gold, in a clear change in the media terminology used by the Saudi media to talk about the Sahara issue which is very sensitive to the Kingdom of Morocco.

According to sources, the report that caused the crisis came in response to comments by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourrita on Al Jazeera’s without borders program on January 23, in which he said: “Morocco has re-evaluated its participation in the Arab Alliance led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen because of human rights violation and other issues.”

On April 8, the Moroccan Intelligence website reported that Abu Dhabi had asked former UAE intelligence officer Ahmed Al Rabia to oversee the launch of Sky News Morocco as a branch of Abu Dhabi’s official Sky News channel.

The website added that the aim of the channel is to “exaggerate the seriousness of the social movements in Morocco.” He added that Saudi Arabia was also involved in the media war against Morocco. MBC is expected to launch a new Moroccan TV station, MBC Morocco.

He explained that Turki Al-Sheikh, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Entertainment in the Kingdom, commissioned a Lebanese production company launches a war on Morocco through the production of series and programs focused on “topics of prostitution, drugs and black magic.”

On April 4, several Tunisian newspapers and news outlets confirmed the opening of the channel directed to the States of the Maghreb, which will be broadcasted from Tunisia. It will produce large programs directed at the Moroccan public and have huge potentials with international standards and a large production budget.

The site also published a news story that said that the site, “Hespress,” the first and most follow-up in Morocco, “is under the protection of the UAE, and the site was registered under the domain name” a.e “listed within the national range of Abu Dhabi.

“Hespress” site has witnessed an unprecedented crisis, in January this year; after the resignation of Khalid Al-Burchell, one of the founding journalists of the site, which launched a fierce attack on the company’s website and the editor-in-residence in Dubai.

Al-Buraheli accused the site officials, on his Facebook page, with “guards of UAE” and accused them of preventing the publication of an article, news or investigation that spoke badly of the Gulf state itself.

This is not the first time the Emirati interference in Morocco’s appears on media. On February 27, news of a dubious visit by a number of Moroccan newspaper editors to the UAE in late 2017, in coordination between the UAE Embassy in Rabat and the Moroccan Ministry of Communication.

According to Goud site, Moroccan journalists were questioned separately, while a Moroccan newspaper editor was scolded for a post in which he defended former Moroccan Prime Minister Abdel Ilah Ben Kieran.

In March last year, the UAE’s diplomatic mission in Morocco filed a complaint against Moroccan journalist Tawfiq Bouachrine, director of publishing and editor-in-chief of Morocco’s Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, for an article published in the Moroccan newspaper Bouachrine and the UAE.

In this article, Bouachrine accused the UAE of being behind the judicial proceedings facing the Moroccan journalist who was then tried on charges of rape and human trafficking, before the Moroccan Court of Appeal in Casablanca sentenced him to 12 years’ imprisonment.

The Bouachrine trial received major media coverage as a political issue and a free speech issue, according to most European sites.

Bouachrine denied all the charges against him during the trial, stressing that he was the convicted because of his writings and criticizing the Moroccan political figures, such as billionaire Aziz Akhnoush, Minister of Agriculture and Secretary General of the National Rally of Independents.

Saudi Arabia has complained to the Moroccan authorities at least on two occasions, following the editorials of the two who are critical of the kingdom’s policies, French newspapers quoted Bouachrine’s lawyer, Abdelmoula Mourouri, as saying.