An expected meeting between Moroccan King Mohammed VI and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been canceled, Asharq Al-Awsat learned on Thursday.
Western diplomatic sources told the newspaper that the Moroccan King decided not to receive the visiting US official after learning that Pompeo came to Rabat with a “pressure agenda” aimed to normalize relations between Morocco and Israel.
The Moroccan Foreign Minister did not issue any clarification about the King’s decision.
Asharq Al-Awsat learned that Pompeo wants Rabat to establish relations with Israel at the same level of ties set up in 1994 when Morocco and Israel announced the opening of bilateral liaison offices.
But Rabat believes that the situation in 2019 is completely different.
Morocco had been carefully monitoring Pompeo’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Portugal.
Washington considers Rabat its partner in achieving US objectives in the region, including the normalization of ties with Israel.
“Morocco plays a great role across the region as an important partner in promoting tolerance [and] has these quiet ties and relationship with Israel as well,” a senior department official told reporters last week.
Pompeo had planned to stay in Morocco from December 4-6 to meet King Mohammed VI. Instead, the secretary cut his visit short.
On Thursday, the US official met in Rabat with Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani, as well as his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita, in his first official visit to the country since the election of US President Donald Trump in 2016.
Pompeo also sat down with General Director of Morocco’s National Security (DGSN) Abdellatif Hammouchi. They agreed that both countries share regular security cooperation to face several challenging crises in the region, including the scourge of terrorism.
Following his meeting with Pompeo, Bourita said: “The visit of the Secretary of State comes as a renewal of the strength of the strategic relations between Morocco and the United States.”
The Moroccan FM stressed that the US desire to strengthen its ties with Morocco “constitutes a recognition of the stability, credibility and reforms characteristic of Morocco.”
Bourita and Pompeo also discussed US-Morocco trade cooperation. They agreed that Rabat and Washington have been able to achieve “close economic cooperation.”
Bourita said that the volume of trade exchanges exceeded the threshold of MAD51 billion dirhams, representing an increase of 28 percent compared to 2017.
The Moroccan FM also drew attention to the significant number of US tourists who visited Morocco in 2019.
“More than 300,000 American tourists visited Morocco this year, an increase of 20 percent compared to 2017,” he said.