By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname – The minister of foreign affairs of Morocco, Nasser Bourita, arrived to a warm welcome in Suriname Wednesday to expand bilateral relations. Behind this mission to Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Chile is the issue of Western Sahara also known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) which Morocco claims as an integral part of the Kingdom.
On Wednesday, Nasser Bourita had meetings with the vice president of Suriname, Ashwin Adhin and the foreign minister of Suriname, Yldiz Pollack-Beighle.
Moroccan aid to Suriname and this visit by foreign minister Nasser Bourita is Rabat's way of thanking Suriname for resending its recognition of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) on March 09, 2016; meantine Bourita would like to see more Caribbean and Latin American countries resend recognition of SADR.
In reference to Western Sahara, the joint communique issued by both countries read, 'Suriname reiterates its position of principle in favour of the internationally recognized principles of dialogue and the peaceful regulation of fighting and salutes the commitment of the government of Morocco in favour of a definitive and mutually acceptable political solution.'
They call upon all parties to find a 'political solution in the framework of Moroccan sovereignty and territorial integrity of the kingdom.'
Morocco is offering Western Sahara full autonomy with defence and foreign affairs to Rabat to control, however, countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Guyana are not changing their stance on the issue.
The Suriname News Agency (NII) reported that the two countries would expand bilateral cooperation and noted that trade between the two countries is one of the vital areas that need to grow. Thus, Morocco will soon send a trade and investment delegation to Paramaribo.
However, for such a senior visit and the fact that they have been working since 2017 on a 'roadmap,' there was no ground-breaking development to announce in terms of any concrete investment between the two countries.
Morocco and Suriname promised to open embassies in Rabat and Paramaribo. President Desire Bouterse was also invited to visit Morocco and King Mohammed VI was invited to visit Suriname.
A Moroccan embassy in Suriname will work hard to lobby other Caribbean countries to resend recognition of SADR. King Mohammed VI has spent a great deal of time travelling across Africa; spent a great deal of money to develop Western Sahara, re-joined the African Union (AU) and Morocco is a significant investor in Sub-Saharan Africa. King Mohammed VI sees himself as African and always had Africa as his foreign policy priority.
Morocco and Suriname have been discussing cooperation in banking, trade, tourism and air- connectivity for some time but nothing tangible was announced during this senior visit from foreign minister Bourita.
Suriname state's own Surinam Airways (SLM) has been unprofitable for decades, mainly because the Mid-Atlantic route from Paramaribo to Amsterdam is haemorrhaging the company. The single aircraft they have flown on the route, the A430 and the B747 were old and cost exorbitant sums of money to maintain. The government may be looking at Royal Air Maroc for some help in this area.
The communique said that both countries would continue to exchange their views on international and regional issues of common interest, including high-level meetings between the ministers of foreign affairs and high officials of Suriname and Morocco.
'The government of the Republic of Suriname would like to thank the Kingdom of Morocco for its precious support and financial assistant. For its part, Moroccan has recognized the efforts of the government of Suriname to work in favour of a solid economy in order to guarantee a better future.'
Morocco reaffirmed its 'commitment to support Suriname in its efforts.'
The foreign minister and the first lady of Suriname, Ingrid Bouterse-Waldring have also visited Morocco in the past to promote bilateral relations.
Through the Netherlands, where there are large Moroccan and Surinamese populations ties between the two people have grown also.