French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said that Paris has restored regular diplomatic relations with Morocco after a year-long row over France’s decision to reduce the number of visas for Moroccans visiting the country.
Friday’s announcement comes two days after France and Morocco met in the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in Qatar.
France won the long-awaited contest, which drew much attention to Morocco’s relations with its former colonial rulers and contacts between the two countries’ dual nationals. Morocco’s impressive qualification for the World Cup semi-finals made it the first Arab country and the first African country to qualify for a world football championship.
Accompanied by a Moroccan delegation during a visit to the capital, Rabat, Colonna said, “Our goal is to improve human exchange between France and Morocco and to strengthen the deep ties between our two societies, which makes our relations very specific.”
France announced last year that it would drastically reduce the number of visas issued to people from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, as North African nations refuse to take back their nationals living illegally in France under pressure to crack down on illegal immigrants.
According to the French Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, there are more than 780,000 people of Moroccan origin in France, and the visa dispute has made it difficult for their relatives to visit Morocco.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the French move to normalize relations is “going in the right direction” in the wake of tensions over the visa dispute.
Bourita said France had taken a unilateral decision to end visa restrictions, and also said it was a unilateral decision to impose restrictions.
Of course, there was a popular reaction and those affected by the decision. I think everyone knows that.
“Today’s decision to restore normal diplomatic relations is a unilateral decision that Morocco respects and will not comment on it officially,” he added.
The two ministers emphasized that the two countries are important partners in the fields of economy, education and security and share similar views on many international issues in Africa and the Middle East.
It was not immediately clear if France received anything in return from Morocco.