Spying allegations strained relations between Morocco and France

Morocco Update

Even before Morocco might try to eavesdrop on French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone calls, the North African kingdom was strained with European powers.

Rabat allows immigrants to enter Spain because it is annoyed by Madrid. It had disputes with Germany over its position on the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Now, the allegations made public last week about the government’s use of Pegasus malware created by the Israeli National Bureau of Statistics group have further exacerbated tensions. These claims are part of a survey conducted by the news non-profit organization Forbidden Stories and 17 media partners.

French “Le Monde” said Morocco may Targeted mobile phone Part of a cyber espionage operation by Macron and 15 French ministers, the operation may also include targeting 6,000 phones belonging to Algerian officials, politicians and others. Algeria is Morocco’s neighbour and rival.

The former colonial power France regards Rabat as a close ally in the fight against jihadistism and Morocco’s largest trading partner.

Riccardo Fabiani, North Africa director of the International Crisis Group, said that the timing of the disclosure was “especially destructive to Morocco, which is having two major diplomatic crises with Spain and Germany. It cannot open a third front with France.”

Earlier this year, when Madrid hosted medical care, relations between Morocco and Spain became strained. Brahim GaliThe leader of the Polisario Front, an Algeria-based organization, demanded the independence of the disputed territory of Western Sahara.May, one Thousands of immigrants poured in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave from Morocco to North Africa, was attributed to Rabat’s dissatisfaction with Gali’s visit and the relaxation of border controls.

The kingdom that controls most of Western Sahara also fell out with Germany. In May, after Germany stated that it would not change its position on Western Sahara, it recalled its ambassador in May, even though the United States recognized Moroccan sovereignty as part of it under Donald Trump’s leadership. A transaction Relations between Rabat and Israel are normalized. The UN referendum plan to determine the status of Western Sahara has been put on hold for decades.

“It can be said that Morocco’s position in Europe has never been so low,” said the US-based North African Risk Consulting Company. Potential espionage “complied with increasingly radical… Morocco’s foreign policy”, it added.

Crisis Group’s Fabiani believes that the change in Washington’s position “makes Morocco more rigid on the Western Sahara issue” and encourages it to try to gain wider recognition of its control over the territory.

France has launched an investigation into allegations of espionage. After Macron met with senior security officials on Thursday, the Elysée Palace said: “The President takes this issue very seriously and is closely monitoring the progress of the investigation.” But it emphasized that “it has not yet been determined at this stage” whether these allegations are true.

As far as Morocco is concerned, it strongly denies that it has taken any such actions or that it has purchased software to penetrate mobile phones.

The Moroccan ambassador to Paris, Chakib Benmoussa, told Le Journal du Dimanche that those who made such harsh accusations against his country must now provide evidence. “In this story, Morocco is the victim,” he said. “This is an attempt to destabilize.”

French media quoted Olivier Baratelli, a French lawyer representing Morocco, as saying that the country will prosecute Taboo Stories and Amnesty International for defamation in Paris. Human rights organizations provided technical research for media investigations. Previously, it had stated that there was evidence that Morocco used Pegasus to infiltrate the phones of local journalists and human rights activists.

Rabat said that Amnesty International did not provide any evidence that Morocco was involved in espionage against journalists.

France is Morocco’s most important trading and investment partner, and a staunch supporter of its interests in the United Nations Security Council in Western Sahara.

“Morocco has always wanted to know our true views on Saharan policy, not just what we told them,” said a former French diplomat. “They are also very concerned about the French players’ views on the Sahara issue.”

Fabiani said that although France firmly supports Morocco’s position on the Western Sahara issue, Paris “sometimes disagrees with its hardline position on the issue.” He said that if “Moroccans may want to pay close attention to the French”, it is not surprising.

He added that France is also a close partner of Algeria, the main sponsor of Polisario, which has exacerbated mistrust.

Observers said that even though the accusations of espionage embarrass Morocco and make France uneasy, the two countries still hope to contain the consequences for security cooperation.

The former French diplomat said that Moroccan intelligence services were “very alert and very effective.” He said: “They have helped France a lot in investigating terrorist attacks dating back to the 2005 Madrid attack and the threat of Islamism in Europe.”

He said: “I think if the news cycle continues, then both countries will be happy to let this go away.”

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