France describes Morocco aid controversy as misguided

France’s foreign minister stated on Monday that it is Morocco’s decision whether to seek French assistance in managing its most severe earthquake in over six decades. France, however, stands prepared to provide aid if Morocco makes such a request.

In recent years, Paris and Rabat have experienced a strained relationship, particularly regarding the matter of Western Sahara, which Morocco seeks recognition from France as part of its territory. Morocco has not stationed a diplomatic representative in Paris since January.

“This is a misplaced controversy,” Catherine Colonna told BFM television when asked why Morocco had not made an official request to Paris for urgent assistance despite accepting help from Spain, Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are ready to help Morocco. It’s a sovereign Moroccan decision and it’s up to them to decide,” she said.

Colonna stated that Paris has allocated 5 million euros (equivalent to $5.4 million) for non-governmental organizations working within Morocco.

Despite French officials’ consistent efforts to downplay any discord between the two nations, President Emmanuel Macron’s planned visit has faced multiple postponements over the past year.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI was in France when the quake hit, Colonna said.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, speaking earlier on Monday to France 2, expressed that Rabat, which he referred to as a “fraternal” nation, possessed the necessary resources to manage the rescue operations independently.

France has navigated a delicate diplomatic balancing act with Rabat while simultaneously aiming to enhance its relations with Algeria, which is Morocco’s longstanding rival and another former French colony.

Algiers supports the Polisario Front, a group that has persistently advocated for the independence of Western Sahara for many years.

The earthquake, which has claimed the lives of over 2,000 people, resulted in the loss of four French citizens.

Based on data from the foreign ministry, France had a population of over 51,000 residents living in Morocco. Additionally, the Observatory for Immigration and Demographics reports that France is home to a Moroccan diaspora of approximately 1.5 million individuals, which includes 670,000 individuals with dual nationality.

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