Kyiv’s foreign minister’s visit to Morocco is an important dynamic

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba began a tour of Africa this week aimed at garnering support for Kyiv’s Peace Formula to end the Ukraine war and boost relations with African nations. This is a very good strategy on Kyiv’s part as it is finally beginning to counter Russia’s influence in the countries of the Global South. For, Ukraine realises that many developing countries have continued to take a neutral stance on the war, influenced by their historic relations with the erstwhile USSR. And Moscow’s diplomatic success lies in hijacking the legacy of the USSR although multiple post-Soviet republics can equally lay claim to that legacy of cooperation, including Ukraine.

Therefore, reaching out to the Global South and explaining Ukraine’s position on the war is vital for Kyiv. Otherwise, Russia will keep peddling its propaganda that the war is actually one between the West and Moscow and that the Ukrainians are mere pawns. That many of the developing countries have been affected by the economic fallout of the war also needs to be addressed. Whether it is grain security, fertilisers or fuel, Ukraine needs to make the point that it sympathises with developing countries for economically suffering due to the conflict but that the war was something that was foisted on it.

After all, no one can condone what has happened to Ukraine. The full-scale Russian invasion has broken every international law and undermined the rules-based order. As I said in my previous article, the only reason many developing countries are continuing to do business with Russia is because of their serious economic needs. Those needs could be easily ameliorated if there are affordable alternatives.

Specifically in relation to Morocco, Rabat has reiterated that it is not directly involved in the Ukraine conflict but upholds the right to territorial integrity of all UN member states. This Moroccan position obviously reflects the Moroccan Sahara issue. In fact, there are parallels here between what the Russians have done to Ukrainian Crimea and the Donbass region since 2014 and Algerian machinations in the Moroccan Sahara. Just like Algeria has supported the separatist Polisario Front to carry out an armed movement in the Moroccan Sahara and set up an artificial Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the Russians too propped up separatist movements in the Ukrainian Donbass, created artificial separatist republics, and then went on to annex them last year.

Thus, Morocco is fully cognisant of what Ukraine is going through. Moreover, that Algeria is a key ally of Russia should make equations clear here. In fact, the Russia militia, Wagner Group, has been slowly expanding its footprint in Africa, supporting authoritarian African regimes in exchange for access to natural resources, and carrying out disinformation campaigns against African governments that have good relations with the West. All of this should worry Morocco given its ties with the West and strained relations with Russian-ally Algeria.

As a matter of fact, Kuleba’s Morocco visit – the first by a Ukrainian foreign minister since bilateral relations were established 30 years ago – saw him endorse Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as the most credible solution to the Moroccan Sahara issue. This is in line with the US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara. In fact, Ukraine, congruent with the principle of territorial integrity, should now open a consulate in the Moroccan Sahara just as more than 27 countries have already done. And given Morocco’s geographically strategic position in North Africa, influence in Francophone Africa and status as a champion of South-South cooperation, Kyiv should be seriously looking at ramping up ties with Rabat to the strategic level.

There’s no denying that the war in Ukraine has transformed geopolitics. Ukraine’s Africa outreach through partnerships with vital countries like Morocco will be crucial in the new evolving global dynamic.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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