Al Jazeera report says Rabat’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi was recalled, which if true suggests a deep rift between Morocco and the UAE.
The Moroccan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed Ait Wali, returned home last week, according to sources who spoke to an Al Jazeera journalist in Rabat on condition of anonymity.
The Gulf network also reports that “well-informed sources in Abu Dhabi” have informed the news outlet that other diplomatic staff and the military attache have also left the UAE for Morocco.
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry sources would not confirm or deny the reports about the ambassador being summoned back to Rabat.
About a year ago, in April 2019, the United Arab Emirates had recalled its ambassador in Rabat.
Ambassador Ali Salem al Kaabi left Morocco at the request of Emirati President Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, according to The New Arab, quoting Eyptian weekly newspaper Akhbar el Yom, which didn’t provide any specific reason for Kaabi’s departure.
Neither Emirati or Moroccan state news agencies provided any commentary on Kaabi’s sudden return to Morocco. Kaabi had been serving as the UAE’s ambassador to Morocco since August 2018.
According to Al Jazeera, relations between Rabat and Abu Dhabi has been strained since Morocco announced its neutrality in the Gulf crisis. The fact that there hasn’t been a Emirati ambassador in Rabat has not helped, either.
As for the Gulf crisis, it began in June 2017 and pitted Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt against Qatar. The group severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and banned the country from using air space and sea routes - with Saudi closing a land border as well.
During the Gulf crisis, Morocco remained neutral despite pleas from the UAE. Rabat maintained its ties with all sides of the conflict.
According to The New Arab, tensions between Morocco and UAE were further strained because of a documentary broadcast on Al Arabiya in February 2019. Al Arabiya is a channel owned by Saudi but based in Dubai. Morocco felt the documentary was critical of its claims of sovereignty over the contested Western Sahara region, the website reported in April 2019.
Morocco was also a member of the Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen before suspending its participation in 2019.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita later denied that the recall of diplomatic staff from the UAE and Saudi Arabia had anything to do with the documentary broadcast, saying the decision was made because the ambassador and consuls had important meetings to attend.
Despite the tensions and the removal of Moroccan staff from the UAE, the UAE Embassy in Rabat tweeted that there will be a new ambassador in Rabat. The Charge d’Affaires of the Emirati Embassy Saif Khalifa al Tunaiji is assuming the duties of Kaabi, who left in 2019.