Mauritanian Foreign Minister Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed received Algeria’s ambassador to Mauritania Noureddine Khandoudi and his Moroccan counterpart Hamid Chabar in two separate meetings. Morocco considered such diplomatic move as a possible attempt by Mauritania to mediate between the two countries.
The official Mauritanian news agency said the meeting between Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the Moroccan diplomat dealt with all issues of mutual interest, in the presence of Maryam Bint Muhammad, assistant director of the Arab World Directorate and Islamic organisations in the Mauritanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Immediately after the Mauritanian-Moroccan meeting, the head of Mauritanian diplomacy received Noureddine Khandoudi. The meeting also focused on issues of common interest, according to official Mauritanian sources.
The diplomatic move from the Mauritanian side comes a few days after Mohammed VI King of Morocco met with Mohamed Lemin Ould Aboye Ould Cheikh El-Hadrami, the new Mauritanian Ambassador to Rabat, in addition to several other ambassadors of some capitals in the Moroccan Kingdom.
The Moroccan media considered the two meetings to hold multiple significations. The speculation is that the Mauritanian reception of the Moroccan and Algerian ambassadors is part of the role played by Nouakchott as an observer state in the Western Sahara conflict, especially after the escalation of the state of mutual negligence between the two neighbouring countries. Such arrangements made by the Mauritanian Foreign Ministry were seen as an act of mediation between Algiers and Rabat.
Dr Moussaoui Ajlawi, professor of contemporary history at Mohammed V University, said that the diplomatic relations between Morocco and Mauritania are still fluctuating since 2011 as a result of repercussions of the Arab Spring.
Ajlawi asserted, in a statement to Hepress, that Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed, the Mauritanian Foreign Minister, is known for his pragmatic approach towards Morocco. Moreover, he has been already involved in diplomatic missions in the Gulf region, which enabled him to grasp the complexity of some regional problems, including the Western Sahara conflict.
Dr Ajlawi said that “the meeting conveys the Mauritanian efforts to assimilate the relations between Mauritania and Morocco, on the one hand, and calm the tension between Morocco and Algeria, on the other hand. Such an attempt is also linked to the results of the Mauritanian elections, which will determine the fate of Mauritania after 2019”.
However, the data diminishes the readings made by Morocco regarding the mediation of the land of Chinguetti or other countries, based on the Algerian position, which was expressed by Minister Abdelkader Messahel in 2015. Messahel, who was at that time the Minister Delegate responsible for African and Maghreb Affairs, said in response to leaks about mediation between Morocco and Algeria: “There is no crisis or mediations between the two countries”.
There were also talks about a Saudi mediation between Algeria and Morocco, and away from diplomatic officials, the leader of Ennahda Movement Rached Ghannouchi was chosen to lead the reconciliation, according to Middle East Eye, last May. The British news website reported, based on a diplomatic source in Algeria, that Ghannouchi called Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and his Moroccan counterpart Saadeddine Othmani to propose mediation to resolve the crisis between the two countries and to suggest a mutual dialogue.
According to the same source, Ghannouchi offered Ahmed Ouyahia to intervene with influential Moroccan figures regarding the crisis. However, the Algerian Prime Minister replied to the Tunisian leader that “the situation does not require any mediation, and Morocco needs to stop its media campaign against Algeria”.
The British news website underrated the success of the mediation as “the decision-making process in Morocco is made in the royal palace and not by Othmani’s government.” According to Middle East Eye, the Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddin Othmani denied receiving a call from Rached Ghannouchi regarding this issue.
The Moroccan Prime Minister added that the West Sahara file “is being dealt with within the framework of the United Nations and we hope to find a solution to it as soon as possible”.
The United Nations is expected to launch a new round of consultations on the West Sahara issue as Horst Kohler, the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara, has sent official invitations to start talks, next October, with Morocco and the Polisario Front as direct parties, as well as Algeria and Mauritania as observer States.