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US, Morocco agree to boost military cooperation

The two sides reportedly signed a deal which furthered their "national security" partnership [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 October, 2020

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Washington remains the number one arms supplier to Rabat, with the Kingdom hosting the largest annual war games for US troops in Africa.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper held meetings with senior officials from Morocco's security and political establishment on Friday, local media reported.

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita welcomed Esper on arrival, as the US official wrapped up a tour of North Africa, which included trips to Tunisia and Algeria.

In a meeting with Abdeletif Loudyi, a high-ranking ranking civil servant charged with managing the country's defence, Esper discussed joint military and security cooperation between the allies.

The two sides reportedly signed a deal which furthered their "national security" partnership, according to media reports, with objectives aimed at improving their "degree of military preparation".

Alongside US ambassador David Fischer, Esper met with Army Chief Abdelfattah Lourak in the Moroccan capital.

The meeting also focussed on the theme of military cooperation, covering the "organisation of combined exercises, the exchange of information visits and the participation in various training courses," Maghreb Arab Press report.

Washington remains the number one supplier of arms to Rabat, providing the kingdom with combat aircraft, ships, tanks, and armoured vehicles.

Both countries participate in the annual "African Lion" military exercise, which brings in strategic partners from several countries in the world, in the largest war games for US troops in Africa.

Those drills were cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Morocco, along with Tunisia, is seen by the US a major ally in the region destabilised by years of conflict in Libya and Mali.

On Wednesday, Esper visited Algeria, an ally of Russia and China, becoming the first US defence chief to do so in nearly 15 years.

Read more: US, Algeria renew strategic alliance in troubled region

Before Esper, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Morocco in December. He met Foreign Minister Bourita to discuss joint efforts to isolate Iran, as well as conflicts unfolding across North Africa.

Morocco has in recent weeks hosted talks between Libya's rival administrations in support of UN efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the fighting which gripped the oil-rich country since the 2011 fall of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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