Morocco says it has stopped its involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, and recalled its ambassador to the kingdom amid rising tensions between Riyadh and Rabat.
A Moroccan government official said Thursday that Morocco no longer takes part in military interventions or ministerial meetings in the Saudi-led coalition.
Morocco’s government has not divulged details of its participation in the war which has killed thousands and displaced over 3 million people since 2015 but reports suggest that the African country contributed with six planes and 1,500 troops.
Last year, Morocco pledged to pull its warplanes out of the Saudi war, citing a need for military buildup at home.
Morocco is reportedly to pull its warplanes out of a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which has been pounding Yemen for more than three years now, citing a need for military buildup at home.
Saudi Arabia invaded the Arab world’s most impoverished nation in March 2015 to put Riyadh’s favorite former government back in the saddle. It has fallen short of the objective, while thousands have been killed and displaced as a result of the invasion.
Before Morocco, Malaysia had withdrawn its forces and left the coalition amid international outrage over the heavy civilian toll.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said in an interview last month with Al Jazeera that Morocco’s participation in Yemen had “changed.”
Bourita also hinted that Rabat had serious reservations about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent tour of other Arab countries, amid international condemnation of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
According to one of the sources, Morocco declined to host the Saudi crown prince in an unusual snub, citing the Moroccan king’s “busy agenda.”
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 colonizers left in 1975. Morocco considers the Western Sahara its southern territories.
The Polisario Front militants aim to end Morocco’s presence in the Saharan region. They recently said they sought to set up a “capital” in the region, prompting Rabat to caution it would respond with force.
The announcement violates a 1991 United Nations-brokered truce between the militants and Moroccan forces. In line with the agreement, the final status of the disputed territory is to be decided by a referendum, which has never gone underway.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on all parties meeting to discuss the long-running Western Sahara dispute this week in Geneva to be constructive.
Morocco recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia for consultations after the report was aired, according to another Moroccan government official.
Tension between Riyadh and Rabat further heightened last June when Saudi Arabia ruined the North African country’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
It was Saudi Arabia that “led an all-out campaign” in favor of an opposite bid to host the 2026 World Cup by the United States, Canada and Mexico, Moroccan media said at the time.
Moroccan officials said Saudi Arabia, a long-time ally of their country, was very influential in nixing the success of their bid to host the tournament.
Saudi Arabia apparently led other Arab countries, especially wealthy states in the Persian Gulf, vote against the North American bid. The move came despite a promise in April by the Arab League to back Morocco’s bid.