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Pending arms sale, Russia addresses the Sahara question in an ambiguous statement

Earlier this week, the Speaker of Morocco’s House of Representatives visited Russia, where he met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa. The latter addressed the Western Sahara dispute in an ambiguous statement.

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House of Representatives Speaker Habib El Malki and Russia diplomat Mikhail Bogdanov. / Ph. DR

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Habib El Malki attended the Second International Forum on «Development of Parliamentarism» held from July 1st to 3rd in Russia. While in Moscow, El Malki met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa Mikhail Bogdanov.

The Western Sahara conflict was at the heart of the meeting that brought El Malki and the Russian diplomat together, Morocco’s lower house reported in a communiqué published Wednesday.

It is worth noting that the Russian official addressed issues related to the territorial conflict, choosing his words carefully. «Time will reward those who defend just causes and in the end the side that has legitimacy will emerge victorious», Bogdanov said.

A message for Morocco

Bogdanov’s statement leaves the door open to different, and maybe contradictory, interpretations. «It is clear that Russia is trying to send Morocco a message, which could be related to the upgrading of its military aircraft fleet», a well-informed source that requested anonymity told Yabiladi.

Indeed, after King Mohammed VI visited Russia in March 2016, many announcements were made, revealing Morocco’s plans to purchase Russian Lada-class submarine, Russian twin-engine fighter-bomber Sukhoi Su-34 or regional jet Sukhoi Superjet 100. None of these plans have seen light yet.

Reports on these potential purchases spread after Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Vitktor Evtukhov revealed in April 2016 that Morocco could acquire 20 Sukhoi Superjet 100s to upgrade the fleet of its national carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM), as well as Irkut MC-21 liners.

However, this year Morocco announced that it is purchasing 25 new F-16s and upgrading 23 aircrafts of the same type for $5 billion. The Kingdom has also purchased related equipment in a sale that the Congress was notified about on March the 22nd.

More recently, the United States Department of State has approved a Foreign Military sale for an estimated cost of $250.4 million to help Morocco sustain support for its current F-A6 fleet. 

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