/ 19 August 2023

Morocco has never applied to join Brics, and views SA government as ‘hostile’

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A convoy carrying Morocco's King Mohammed VI leaves the Tetouan palace following a ceremony of allegiance to mark the 24th anniversary of his enthronement, on July 31, 2023. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The Moroccan government has declined an invitation to participate in the African outreach programme at next week’s BRICS summit in Johannesburg, the foreign ministry said. 

In a statement released on Saturday, Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita’s office said that it has not applied to join the multilateral body.

This against the backdrop of historically strained relations between the South African government and the North African nation over its continued occupation of Western Sahara, the only African state yet to achieve independence from colonial occupation.

On Saturday, the kingdom’s foreign ministry said there had “never been any intention to positively respond to the invitation” to participate in the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa)  programmes which had been issued by South Africa ahead of the summit.

The move comes in response to a comment by South Africa Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, in which she noted that Morocco was among those nations which had applied to join Brics.

The expansion of the body, which holds its 15th summit from 22 August, is among the key issues on the agenda, with a number of other African states having applied to join Brics.

However, the Rabat government said the invitation to participate in the outreach programme had been issued “unilaterally” by the South African government.

“Morocco has therefore assessed this invitation in the light of its strained bilateral relationship with this country” and had declined participation.

The Moroccan government said Pretoria had consistently “shown a primary hostility towards the Kingdom, and has systematically taken negative and dogmatic positions on the question of the Moroccan Sahara.”

Morocco’s ambassador to South Africa, Youssef Amrani, confirmed the authenticity of the statement, which had been issued to clarify the situation.

“Morocco has not accepted an invitation to participate in the Brics outreach programme and has never applied to join Brics,” said Amrani.

South Africa recognises the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which controls part of  Western Sahara and has been under Moroccan occupation since the withdrawal of Spain in the 1970s.  The ANC is an ally of the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi liberation movement. 

A diplomatic source said that a Sahrawi delegation would be attending the Brics Africa Outreach on 24 August and that there was “no way” that Morocco would have attended the event due to their presence.

“Sahrawi will be there as they are members of the AU, so the Moroccans will avoid any event or forum that they are at as participation would be tacit acknowledgement of their statehood,” the source said.

Rabat said Pretoria had “multiplied, both nationally and within the African Union, its notoriously malicious actions against Morocco’s higher interests” which had included “deliberate and provocative breaches of protocol” in issuing the invitation.

“Many countries and entities appear to have been invited arbitrarily by the host country, without any real basis or prior consultation with the other member countries of the Brics group,” the statement read.

The Moroccan government said it maintained “substantial and promising bilateral relations” with the other Brics members and enjoyed strategic partnership agreements with three of them.

“However, the kingdom has never formally applied for membership of the  Brics group. There is as yet no framework or precise procedures governing the expansion of this group.”

Rabat said it remained committed to multilateralism, and those platforms should not be used to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states.

Morocco’s relations with Brics would continue to fall within the general framework of the kingdom’s foreign policy.

Comment from the International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela will be added once received. Monyela had not responded to calls and messages from the Mail & Guardian at the time of publishing.