NATO Looks South- Mediterranean Security and Alliance Strategy: Morocco’s relations with NATO are a political and a strategic choice made by the Kingdom as soon as it gained its independence.
Remarks by Youssef Amrani on the theme « NATO Looks South- Mediterranean Security and Alliance Strategy », Brussels 17 november 2015.
This theme is important because it gives us a chance to address, together, common challenges relating to peace, stability and security. They concern not just the countries of the Mediterranean, but those of the Atlantic Alliance as well.
Today’s meeting is also an opportunity to ponder on the conceptual and operational contours of a new strategic consensus in the Mediterranean and of an innovative framework for cooperation which is more in step with the new geopolitical situation.
There are three reasons why I am here with you today:
– First: As far Morocco is concerned, the relations with NATO are the reflection of a political and strategic choice made by the Kingdom as soon as it gained its independence; it has been confirmed and consolidated within the framework of the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD);
– Second: Morocco which, in 2006, had the honor of hosting for the first time a NAC-DM meeting advocates such initiatives which enable us to lay the groundwork for a « common destiny » in the Mediterranean geopolitical space. While retaining its geopolitical centrality, the latter will interact more closely with Euro-Atlantic, Middle Eastern and African neighboring regions;
-Third: Morocco has consistently been calling for strengthening the DM, especially its political component. The aim is to enable it to evolve into a genuine partnership open to all Mediterranean partners who are willing to contribute to the efforts designed to make this geographical space (the Mediterranean) an area of peace, security and shared prosperity.
Since 2011, the North Africa and the MENA region precisely have been grappling with many hotbeds of instability and internal conflicts and are engaged in an existential struggle against extremist terrorism.
After 4 years of conflict and more than 300,000 casualties and over 10 million refugees in neighboring countries, Syria today is an increasingly fragmented nation: part of the country is controlled by the state, another by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nousra and a third part by the Sunni and Kurdish opposition.
As regards Iraq, and notwithstanding the international intervention in 2003, the country is also divided into three parts, with mostly Shiite areas controlled by the state, others controlled by Kurds and other areas under Daesh control.
The situation is no better in Libya. The collapse of the former regime has led to a situation of complete chaos, with two governments, two parliaments and two armies. Today, only a political solution, inclusive dialogue and democratic and representative institutions, within the framework of Libyan national unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty can help resolve the serious crisis gripping the country. It was with this in mind that the warring parties in Libya started inter-Libyan political negotiations in Morocco, under the auspices of the United Nations, led by Mr. Bernardino Leon. The aim is to achieve a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Libya.
For this to be achieved, we must ask the right questions! How, in such an environment, can we expect to reunite Syria? How can we include all Iraqi factions in the process of taking ownership of their own country? Why is it that the international community remains divided on the approach, method and means to be used?
The weakness, not just of the states concerned, but also of the reactions to the problems has enabled a new player to gain momentum and territory. This is a terrorist group of a new kind – « Daesh » – which controls large swathes of land and significant segments of the population, which runs economic ‘institutions’ and wants to become a sovereign state!
In the face of such a shift in the regional balance and the still unclear – not to say controversial – role of Iran, a conflict has been going on for decades and continues to feed the frustration, not only of local populations but throughout the Arab-Islamic world: I am referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is there still room for hope? What solution can be considered in the current political and security context? And, above all, how to bring the parties concerned to show more wisdom in such a messy global environment?
It is of the utmost importance that the entire international community becomes more seriously involved in achieving this objective. The major powers (the EU, the U.S and Russia) should strive together to get the peace process back on track with a view to achieving the necessary two-State solution.
Lastly, after many setbacks, Tunisia and Egypt are trying to get back on their feet; they continue to face chronic economic hardships, compounded by the terrorist threat looming large on both countries.
We are therefore facing new facts on the ground, new urgent issues that require a rallying project that may help foster peace and stability in the southern Mediterranean and create a space for shared prosperity between the North and the South.
And there is the Sahel region, in which the political, security, humanitarian and human rights situation getting worse exacerbated due to the many challenges relating to the permeability of borders, organized cross-border crime and the proliferation of threats due to the presence of terrorist groups in the Sahel and Sahara strip which are threatening the stability of all states in the region.
There is also the situation in Nigeria, where the insurgency of the Islamist Boko Haram group and the firm response from the Nigerian army have led to more than 13,000 casualties and 1.5 million internally displaced people….
In such a context, a new approach to the Mediterranean Dialogue is just as legitimate as it is necessary :
Legitimate, because the Mediterranean Dialogue which, for the last 21 years has brought together NATO countries and the countries and South and East Mediterranean countries is a « major frame of reference » and a « key element » of cooperative security in the Mediterranean and it is Necessary, in that we live in a geopolitical context marked by successive and simultaneous crises, as mentioned earlier.
If one were to draw lessons from all this geopolitical mess, then it would be this:
– No state or multilateral actor, however powerful, can single-handedly impose solutions to overcome the crisis;
– The military interventions that had not been followed by post-conflict political support have led to major crises not only in the countries concerned but also on neighboring regions.
Given all of the above, NATO, as a global player in the area of international security, should rethink its guiding policy and reinvigorate its tools in order to retain its main player and to remain a major provider of global security, particularly in the immediate vicinity of the Euro-Atlantic space, in an effort to promote all kinds of initiatives or actions likely to increase the sense of co-ownership in Mediterranean countries.
While it is true, today, that the threat is of a more global nature and that security is indivisible, it is nonetheless a fact that certain responses should take into consideration parameters that are specific to the region and context concerned.
In this respect, the Mediterranean Dialogue can help find specific responses to the challenges faced by the region and its southern neighbors.
Thus, security in North Africa cannot be dissociated from the situation in the Sub-Saharan region, home to all kinds of trafficking: in drugs and light weapons, in addition to kidnapping, piracy, all of which provide terrorist and extremist groups with funds. In addition to the vast array of threats, instability is gaining ground and is geographically spreading from the Gulf of Guinea to the Horn of Africa.
The Mediterranean Dialogue cannot exist and prosper on its own. There has to be coherence and synergies with other initiatives addressing security issues in the Mediterranean. The reference, basically, is to initiatives relating to security, defense and counter-terrorism launched by the Arab League, the Maghreb Union, the 5+5 group, the OSCE and the EU.
Similarly, there is growing interaction between the Mediterranean region and Africa. Any change, dysfunction or crisis on the continent will have a direct impact on security and stability in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
While it is true that Africa is an economically emerging continent, it remains nonetheless vulnerable, as evidenced by the Ebola crisis, the situation in the Sahel, the Boko Haram challenge…etc. This means that the distinction between home security and external security is increasingly questionable in Africa due to porous borders, fragile state structures, rapidly growing inter-state conflicts and the transnational nature of mafia networks.
Having multiform, centuries-old relations with the Sahel region, Morocco continues to contribute, alongside the international community, to the success of the integrated strategy for the Sahel region, as part of the commitment confirmed by His Majesty King Mohammed VI on September 19, 2013 during his visit to Mali – a commitment His majesty reiterated in his message to the Paris Summit on Peace and Security in Africa.
This commitment combines human development, the protection of the spiritual and cultural identity and the preservation of territorial integrity in the Sahel region, through inclusive, clear and sustained security cooperation.
The Atlantic coastline has also become a platform for drug trafficking from South-America, attacks against oil facilities, illegal migration and piracy. Security challenges in the Sahel and the Atlantic coastline region are growing and becoming increasingly complex. They require more means to safeguard the sovereignty of African States, to ensure the safety of maritime routes and of energy supplies and to guarantee the unhindered passage of vessels.
This clearly shows that the security of the Euro-Atlantic region hinges on that of the Maghreb which, in turn, depends to a large extent on stability in the Sahel and Sahara and in the Middle East.
Let me conclude, by saying that today terrorist groups have successfully adapted to their surroundings and are actively exploiting the unstable political situation prevailing in the Arab world, particularly the ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria, which are helping boost their weapons arsenal and recruitment capacities.
They are also exploiting institutional weaknesses, socio-economic challenges and state rivalries in the Sahel and Sahara region (AQIM, Boko Haram) and in Horn of Africa (Al Shabab). This has helped them consolidate their foothold and threaten peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin and Central Africa regions.
They are becoming increasingly violent and even more sinister and inhumane in their retribution. We can no longer afford to wait; the time has come for robust action and solidarity in the face of this common threat.
Morocco is convinced that there can be no sustainable security, peace or stability in the region without three essential prerequisites:
– Firstly: the need to strengthen the national democratic process, namely by introducing political reforms that can help widen the field of civil liberties:
The political arena must be established as a credible and legitimate forum for responsible civic action, where aspirations and grievances may be democratically expressed in full respect of the rule of law. Today, more than ever, a stable state capable of defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity is the best guarantee of security for populations and neighboring countries.
-Secondly: the need for greater efforts in the fight against poverty, inequality, and social exclusion:
Socio-economic development must remain at the very heart of any counterterrorism strategy seeking sustainable, long-term outcomes. The international community should identify the means required to help the countries of the region rise to this challenge, namely by addressing the issue of poverty in a pragmatic, solidarity-based way.
–Thirdly: It is imperative to safeguard the authentic spiritual and cultural identity of the countries of the region to defeat extremists:
In this connection, a coherent and sustained counter-messaging and strategic communications effort is vital to defeat Daesh and other extremist movements in the region. We should vigorously engage, directly and through the media, to deconstruct the ideology underpinning the Jihadi movement and the threat they pose to the region and beyond, particularly in Africa. Success will come from joining with people in the region, whose voices are the most credible, with key target audiences to undermine the Daesh narrative and present an alternative vision based on hope for a better future.
This should be done through :
- Countering the Daesh narrative;
- Facilitating effective counter-messaging ;
- Coordinating a communication strategy to isolate Daesh as a terrorist and criminal group;
- Resolving the current crisis in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya and bringing about the conditions for an inclusive, stable future in these countries.
Building on its time-honored bonds with many African countries – where Islam was often historically introduced by Morocco – as well as on the legitimacy derived from the status of His Majesty the King as Commander of the Faithful and the conclusive results obtained from a successful reform of the religious domain, the Kingdom of Morocco is well equipped to help preserve and promote a moderate, tolerant and open version of Sunni Islam, as it has always existed in our region.
To this end, Morocco is undertaking religious training programs currently benefitting hundreds of African imams to help provide them with training that is fully respectful of the traditional moderate precepts shared by all countries adhering to the Maliki rite.
The Moroccan experience has demonstrated that Islam is perfectly compatible with democracy, human rights and freedom. It clearly shows that progress without bloodshed and without violence is indeed possible.