France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna said Paris has restored normal consular relations with Morocco following a year-long dispute linked to France’s decision to slash the number of visas for Moroccans visiting France.
The announcement on Friday comes two days after France and Morocco played each other in the football World Cup semifinals in Qatar.
France won the highly anticipated match, which had also driven much analysis of Morocco’s relationship with its former colonial rulers and the links between the two countries’ dual nationals. Morocco’s stunning qualification for the World Cup semifinal saw the country become the first Arab and first African nation to make it so far in the global football tournament.
“Our objective is to improve the human exchanges between France and Morocco and enhance the deep interlinks between our two societies which makes our relations so particular,” Colonna said in a news conference with her Moroccan counterpart during a visit to the capital Rabat.
France, under public pressure to curb undocumented immigrants, announced last year it would significantly reduce the number of visas granted to nationals from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia because of the North African countries’ refusal to take back their citizens living illegally in France.
According to the French Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, there are more than 780,000 people of Moroccan origin in France and the visa dispute has made it difficult for their relatives in Morocco to visit them.
Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita said the French move to normalise relations “goes in the right direction” following the tensions prompted by the visa dispute.
Bourita said France had made a unilateral decision to end restrictions on visas after what he said was also a unilateral decision to introduce the restrictions.
“Of course, there were popular reactions and also from people who were affected by this decision. I think that everyone is aware of this,” he said.
“Today, the decision to restore normal consular relationships is again a unilateral decision that Morocco respects and would not comment on officially,” he added.
Both ministers stressed that the two countries were important partners in terms of the economy, education and security and shared the same points of view regarding many international issues in Africa and the Middle East.
It was not immediately clear whether France had gotten anything in return from Morocco.