Morocco and Mauritania: Is it just a tug of war or a real one?

Morocco and Mauritania: Is it just a tug of war or a real one?

The Moroccan-Mauritanian relations have been anything but warm during the last couple of years.

Allegations have been swirling around that the Mauritanians are coordinating with the separatist movement Polizario, and even contemplating handing them over the buffer zone which Morocco considers its territory. Nonetheless, the spokesperson of the Mauritanian government has denied these allegations, noting that the relationships are normal and harmonious.

So what is really going on?

Brewing disagreements between the two neighbors have emerged after Morocco reportedly mobilized some military units to its southern borders, and the Mauritanians did just the same. The Mauritanian government, however, has vehemently dismissed these reports and “social media rumors”. These “rumors” apparently raised some concerns when a member of the Moroccan parliament from the Istiqlal party addressed a question to the minister delegate to the minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Mbarka Bouida, about the reports that Mauritania had placed a Mauritanian flag on Moroccan soil. Mrs. Bouida has dismissed these claims, accusing a third party –which she did not name- of trying to disrupt the Moroccan-Mauritanian relations. The minister also added that she had met with her Mauritanian counterpart Mr. Isselkou on the sidelines of Arab foreign ministers meeting during which they both discussed the strong bilateral relations.

The official narrative however doesn’t align with what has been happening on the ground. First, Mauritania recalled its ambassador to Morocco five years ago, a move that clearly shows the strained relations and the growing gap between the two. Then, the president had secretly – and publicly- expressed his support for the Polizario, and acted on it and went ahead and received some of the separatist envoys. Finally, Mauritania voted against a petition that Morocco had submitted to the African Union to expel the Polizario from the organization. Morocco response was swift but subtle, only a small delegation attended the Arab summit hosted by Mauritania.

So, we know for sure that Mauritania has definitely veered away from Morocco, and we also know that they are maybe just- “Facebook” friends , but we definitely do not know what is going to happen next.

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