US Defense Minister Mark Esper concluded a tour in Rabat on Friday aimed at strengthening military cooperation with the Maghreb countries focused on the fight against jihadism and security in North Africa, Libya and the Sahel. His visit coincides with the resumption of the “Libyan dialogue”, which is due to resume Friday evening in Bouznika, in the region of Rabat, in the presence of parliamentarians from the two rival camps, representing the High Council of State aligned with Prime Minister Fayez al- Sarraj and the Parliament of Tobruk, loyal to Marshal Khalifa Haftar, according to a Moroccan diplomatic source. As in Tunis on Wednesday, the head of the Pentagon signed on Friday in Rabat a ten-year military cooperation agreement with the kingdom, considered a “major ally” in the region. “Now more than ever, our two nations are working closely to face the challenges of a complex security environment ranging from counterterrorism and other transnational threats, to regional instability and to broader strategic issues,” said he said before signing. “This roadmap clearly reaffirms that our alliance is strong and made to last” in the face of “major challenges” such as “terrorism, violent extremism and all forms of separatism”, for his part stressed the Moroccan minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita.
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Morocco-United States: a close relationship in defense
During his visit, Mr. Esper also met the Moroccan Chief of Staff, Abdelfattah Louarak, and Minister Delegate for Defense Abdellatif Loudiyi. With this agreement, Morocco hopes to consolidate military cooperation with the United States in the defense industry, and in particular to promote possible technological transfers, according to a press release from the Moroccan general staff. Each year Morocco hosts the African Lion military exercise, the largest on the continent, under the leadership of the American Military Command for Africa (Africom). Air, land and sea exercises have been canceled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The United States is the main supplier of armaments to Rabat (combat planes, ships, tanks, armored vehicles, etc.) while neighboring Algeria, where Mr. Esper made a stopover on Thursday, is a major customer of the Russia.
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Reinforced cooperation to counter Chinese and Russian competition
In Tunisia, Mr. Esper underlined that beyond the fight against the threat of “violent extremism”, the strengthening of military cooperation aimed to face “our strategic competitors China and Russia” with “predatory behavior”. “. Last December, instability in Libya and the Sahel had already been at the center of a visit to Rabat by the head of US diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, who also came to plead for normalization with Israel. In recent weeks, the kingdom has launched an inter-Libyan agreement on the distribution of Libyan sovereign institutions, such as the Central Bank, the high electoral commission, the anti-corruption commission, in the wake of the United Nations mediation efforts for a process. political settlement. Mr. Bourita is returning from a trip to Mali where he met the transitional president, Bah N’Daw, and his vice-president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, representative of the junta that took power in August.