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Monday , September 21 2020

Muslims are first ‘victims’ of terrorism: Moroccan minister

Moroccan Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad speaking in the European Parliament
Moroccan Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad speaking in the European Parliament

BRUSSELS, Sept 8, (Agencies): The first victims of terrorism are Muslims themselves, Moroccan Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad told the European Parliament here Wednesday night. “Virtually every day there is a terrorist attack in the Muslim world. Maybe it doesn’t get into the press. But every time there is an issue like this straightaway you can see here in Europe and in the world that Muslims are being affected because of racist reactions, “Hassad said, speaking on the topic “strengthening security and stability in the Mediterranean — the role of Morocco.”

“First victims of terrorism are Muslims, and Europeans should understand this,” the minister stressed, noting that fighting terrorism is a main strategy for Morocco. “Our intelligence is working 100 percent to fight terrorism — Our intelligence services are very closely cooperating with many countries. If you have to fight terrorism you should be able to exchange information speedily without any constraints,” he added.

Hassad said the policy to fight terrorism in Morocco is based on three pillars, prevention, religious education and to eradicate marginalization of people. Since 2012 over 60 terrorist cells have been dismantled in Morocco and people in Europe now understand that it is important to prevent than to kill, he said.

The minister warned that the so-called Islamic State (IS) or DAESH is “a grave danger. It is not only in Syria or Iraq. DAESH is moving elsewhere. We are very concerned about this.” Hassad, however, lamented that “security cooperation with our eastern neighbors is practically nil.” A number of Members of the European Parliament also spoke at the event and called for closer cooperation between the EU and Morocco to counter terrorism and to deal with the migration crisis. Earlier Wednesday, the Moroccan interior minister held talks with the EU Commissioner for home affairs and migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s foreign minister was to hold talks with her Moroccan counterpart in Rabat on Wednesday in a sign of eased ten-sions after a year-long quarrel over the Western Sahara. Margot Wallstrom, who arrived on Tuesday, was to meet civil society representatives as well as Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, the embassy said.

Relations between Rabat and Stockholm have been strained since 2015, when Sweden was considering the possibility of recognising the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared by the pro-independence Polisario Front. Sweden’s leftwing government, which came to power in 2014, abandoned the idea in January 2016. In September 2015, Morocco blocked a grand opening of the kingdom’s first Ikea store, saying it lacked a “conformity permit”. Local media said the move was in retaliation for Stockholm’s position on the disputed territory. Wallstrom in January announced Sweden would not recognise the Western Sahara as an independent state, but would support UN mediation on the issue.

Relations have since eased, but sensitivities remain, particularly over the repatriation of unaccompanied Moroccan minors in Sweden. Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom despite UN resolutions that task a peacekeeping mission with organising a referendum on self-determination. The mission was established in 1991 when a ceasefire ended a war that broke out in 1975 when Morocco sent troops to the former Spanish territory and fought the Polisario Front.

Morocco controls all of the territory’s main towns confining the Polisario Front to a narrow desert strip in the interior. Tensions in the Western Sahara region remain high between Moroccan troops and fighters of the Polisario independence movement, UN offi- cials said Wednesday amid growing fears of a full-blown conflict. “The situation remains tense in the Guerguerat area of Western Sahara inside the buffer strip,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that “any resumption of hostilities, with the potential to have wider regional implications, remains of significant concern to the UN.”

Tensions flared recently after Morocco began road construction in the area south of a buffer zone separating the two sides. The construction has been met with resistance by Polisario Front fighters, who are separated from Moroccan troops on the opposite side of the land strip by some 120 meters (yards), the UN spokesman said.

The UN is “actively engaging with the parties and key member states to urge restraint and identify options for an acceptable solution to the current crisis,” Dujarric said. The Polisario Front’s UN representative, Ahmed Boukhari, said he had met Wednesday with the head of the Security Council, New Zealander Gerard van Bohemen, to “inform him in detail” about the situation in the Guerguerat area, “which represents a breach in the terms of the ceasefire.”

The situation “threatens the prospects of a peaceful solution to the conflict and poses a direct threat to the region’s stability and security,” Boukhari said in a statement. He called on the Security Council “to assume its responsibilities to avoid that the situation unilaterally created by Morocco doesn’t lead to a scenario of conflict open to unpredictable consequences.” A confidential UN report last week accused both Morocco and the Polisario Front of ceasefire violations in Western Sahara after they sent security forces and fighters into the buffer zone.

The situation is being monitored by the UN mission known as MINURSO, which set up a patrol near the tense area. MINURSO was established in 1991 after a ceasefire ended a war that broke out when Morocco sent troops to the former Spanish territory in 1975 to fight the Polisario Front’s ethnic Sahrawi rebels. Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of its kingdom despite UN resolutions that task MINURSO with organizing a referendum on self-determination

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