Russia-Morocco talks

As part of his visit to the Kingdom of Morocco, Dmitry Medvedev held talks with Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco Saad Eddine El Otmani.

Russia-Morocco talks

Documents signed following the talks

Joint news conference by Dmitry Medvedev and Saad Eddine El Otmani

Russia-Morocco talks

Excerpt from the transcript:

Russia-Morocco talks

Saad Eddine El Otmani (via interpreter): In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.

Mr Prime Minister, dear friend. Ladies and gentlemen, honourable ministers.

First and foremost, Mr Prime Minister, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you and tell you how glad we are to receive you and your delegation in the Kingdom of Morocco. This visit is evidence of the privileged relations of friendship marked by mutual respect that unites our two countries. This visit falls within the context of our clear choice of prospects for cooperation, which began with the historic visit of King Mohammed VI to Moscow in 2016, and advanced strategic partnership established as a result of that visit. This partnership has set the course for future strong, fruitful and positive cooperation between us that meets the aspirations and mutual obligations of the two countries. All this has to do with the “road map,” a clear, ambitious and practical one, which allows us to strengthen our partnership that meets the legitimate aspirations of our two countries in terms of cooperation between us. We are very optimistic about this new dynamic and are convinced that this new way of cooperation undoubtedly will contribute to stability and further development in strengthening the countries’ interests within the context of solidarity and mutual understanding and preserving the territorial integrity of the two countries.

Russian-Moroccan relations have a long history, and their roots extend far back in history. In 1778, there was an exchange of messages between Sultan Mohammed III bin Abdullah and Empress Catherine II, which resulted in the signing of a peace treaty. Since then, relations between the two countries have never stopped to evolve and deepen. These historical ties strengthened after King Mohammed VI visited Moscow in 2002 and 2016, and after President Vladimir Putin visited Morocco in September 2006.

It should be mentioned that in just one year our countries managed to give this partnership a new lease on life through strengthening political dialogue and diversifying economic cooperation. The key milestones of bilateral cooperation clearly show the kind of progress we have made in strengthening the partnership between our two countries in terms of its rich content, as well as the nature of the promising commitments that we have assumed.

We have achieved a lot. I would like to focus on one thing. It concerns the sixth session of the Russian-Moroccan intergovernmental commission held in Moscow on 12-13 July. This event testified to our countries’ desire to take greater advantage of the bilateral partnership and facilitated partnership between the business circles of Morocco and Russia in various sectors and industries.

The session of this commission also made it possible to overcome the difficulties that hampered the improvement of trade between our countries, allowed us to strengthen our trade, and to guarantee a place for Morocco as a strategically important partner for the Russian Federation in Africa and the Arab world.

Exchanges and visits at the top level allowed the leaders of the two countries to start a constructive and productive dialogue and helped bilateral relations further develop and flourish. They have expanded to include new areas of strategic cooperation, such as scientific research and advanced technologies. The official visit of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, gave fresh impetus to Russian-Moroccan relations, especially in the field of marine fisheries, scientific and technical cooperation, and strengthened the two countries' desire to take advantage of all available opportunities in order to take cooperation in the field of agricultural industry to a new level.

The leaders of the two countries decided to strengthen and deepen bilateral relations, and give another boost to the ancient friendship between Russia and Morocco. In this connection, allow me to express to you the warmest gratitude of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Russian Federation concerning Russia’s firm position in favour of the UN Security Council resolution on the need to preserve peace and stability in the region.

Trade between Russia and Morocco began to expand after the signing of a trade and economic agreement. It was instrumental in increasing the volume of trade from $200 million in 2001 to $2.5 billion in 2015. The year 2013 inaugurated a new period after the signing of an agreement in the sphere of marine fisheries. In 2016, Russia ranked 9th among Morocco's suppliers and 22nd on the list of countries exporting from Morocco.

Economic cooperation between the two countries remains satisfactory, and trade continues to expand. However, we still need to do a lot to achieve a bigger trade balance between the two countries and further develop trade and these relations.

The strategic horizons of bilateral relations require us to reinforce the regulatory framework. In this regard, Morocco pays significant attention to the agreements that were signed during the historic visit of King Mohammed VI of Morocco to Russia in 2016. Now, we also intend to sign more agreements in the context of your current visit to Morocco. These new agreements, which we will sign today, cover priority sectors and will undoubtedly help deepen and strengthen bilateral cooperation and identify effective and productive mechanisms for effective implementation of these agreements. In the sphere of customs regulations, the signing of a protocol on sharing information on goods and vehicles (what is called the "green corridor") will facilitate trade transactions, especially for agricultural produce, which constitutes the bulk of Moroccan exports to Russia.

Speaking of agriculture, the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the two ministries of agriculture has become a kind of added value which can enrich the countries’ existing cooperation capital.

Cooperation in the sphere of energy offers promising prospects which will allow us to further deepen exchanges in the spheres of natural gas, electricity, energy efficiency, and hydrocarbons.

In addition to traditional areas of cooperation, we are now opening up new horizons for cooperation between our countries in the sphere of military cooperation and security cooperation.

Cultural ties between our countries are also on the rise and are in excellent shape. Several decades ago, Russian universities began to accept Moroccan students. I would like to affirm the importance of stronger cultural exchanges between our two countries and civilisations in order to strengthen contacts between our peoples.

Dmitry Medvedev: My friend, esteemed Prime Minister of the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco Saad Eddine El Otmani. Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues.

This is truly an important visit, and my colleague just gave an overview of all its components. I would like to add that the head of government of our country visited Morocco a long time ago, 46 years ago to be exact, in 1971. It was Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Alexei Kosygin. Over the past years, our relations have made a qualitative step forward, as we just mentioned. Since 2002, they have taken on the features of a strategic partnership, which was announced during the visit of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and his meeting with President Vladimir Putin. That visit started a new phase and a new chronology in our relations. We believe that these relations are getting stronger from year to year, becoming more and more substantive, which manifests itself in the field of trade, economic and investment cooperation, and in the field of cultural contacts and our joint efforts on international platforms.

Mr Prime Minister, you became the head of government of your country in March. However, you visited Russia many times before in your capacity as foreign minister, which you and I mentioned today and yesterday. Therefore, you are quite familiar with the status of our relations, and you understand Russia. For my part, I would like to note that Morocco is indeed our strategic partner in the Arab world, the Maghreb countries, and Africa. Our relations rest on a solid foundation. Of course, recent advances in trade represent a visible example of these relations.

We both noted during the talks that much remains to be done. As a matter of fact, this is why a representative delegation from Russia and representatives of the Russian business community are here in Morocco today. Yesterday, there was a forum attended by our business people. I hope it will allow us to better understand each other, to establish closer ties, and to discuss future investments.

We are discussing a variety of new areas of cooperation. Our colleagues will tell us more about this. Perhaps, we need to make additional efforts to diversify trade, look at new areas of cooperation, resolve certain issues at the government level, and overcome certain challenges and obstacles that always get in the way of business contacts. My colleagues are willing to do so.

In turn, I would like to sincerely thank His Majesty King Mohammed VI, you, esteemed Prime Minister El Otmani, and all our friends and colleagues who are present in this room and who helped our delegation to make this visit possible for your hospitality and to express my hope that our talks will have positive results.

Documents signed following the talks:

Signing joint documents

- Protocol between the Federal Customs Service of the Russian Federation and the Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxes of the Kingdom of Morocco on Organising the Exchange of Preliminary Information on Goods and Vehicles Transferred between the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Morocco;

Signed on the Russian side by Head of the Federal Customs Service Vladimir Bulavin; on the Moroccan side by Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests Aziz Akhannouch and Minister of Economy and Finance Mohammed Boussaid.

- Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests of the Kingdom of Morocco on Cooperation in Agriculture;

Signed on the Russian side by Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation Alexander Tkachev; on the Moroccan side by Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests Aziz Akhannouch.

- Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco on Mutual Protection of the Results of Intellectual Activities and Protection of Intellectual Property in Bilateral Military-Technical Cooperation;

Signed on the Russian side by the Head of the Federal Service for Intellectual Property Grigory Ibliyev; on the Moroccan side by Minister-Delegate for National Defence under the Prime Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi.

- Memorandum of Understanding between the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Moroccan Academy for Diplomatic Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation  of the Kingdom of Morocco;

Signed on the Russian side by Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov; on the Moroccan side by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco Nasser Bourita.

- Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco on Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Affairs;

Signed on the Russian side by Head of the Federal Customs Service Vladimir Bulavin; on the Moroccan side by Minister of Economy and Finance Mohammed Boussaid.

- Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development of the Kingdom of Morocco on Cooperation in Energy Efficiency;

Signed on the Russian side by Minister of Energy Alexander Novak; on the Moroccan side by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development Aziz Rabbah.

- Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development of the Kingdom of Morocco on Cooperation in Renewable Energy Sources;

Signed on the Russian side by Minister of Energy Alexander Novak; on the Moroccan side by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development Aziz Rabbah and Chairman of the Renewable Energy Agency Mustafa Bakkuri.

- Programme of Cooperation between the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Culture of the Kingdom of Morocco on Cooperation in Culture in 2017-2019.

Signed on the Russian side by Deputy Minister of Culture Alla Manilova; on the Moroccan side by Minister of Culture and Communications Mohamed Laaradj.

- Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and the State Secretariat on Professional Education of the Kingdom of Morocco on Secondary Vocational Education;

Signed on the Russian side by Deputy Minister of Education and Science Lyudmila Ogorodova; on the Moroccan side by State Secretary at the Minister of National

Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research Larbi Bencheikh.

- Memorandum of Understanding between the State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development of the Kingdom of Morocco on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy;

Signed on the Russian side by Director of the ROSATOM Middle East and North Africa FZ-LLC — International Network Private Institution Alexander Voronkov; On the Moroccan side by General Director of  the National Centre for Nuclear Energy, Sciences and Technology of the Kingdom of Morocco Khalid Mediouri.

Joint news conference by Dmitry Medvedev and Saad Eddine El Otmani

Excerpts from the transcript:

News conference by Dmitry Medvedev and Saad Eddine El Otmani

Saad Eddine El Otmani (via interpreter): This visit by Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev has special significance, as it is the first official visit of a prime minister of the Russian Federation to Morocco. So, welcome once again. This is your first time in Morocco, so this visit is important from a personal perspective as well.

This visit is regarded as an historic moment in relations between our countries. It will help strengthen the deep strategic partnership, the agreement on which was signed during the historic visit by King of Morocco Mohammed VI to Moscow in March 2016. This partnership relies on strong foundations for cooperation, which are strong and renewable, and whose horizons expand in various sectors. At some point, this partnership translated into signing 16 agreements in the presence of the King of Morocco, and created new opportunities for dynamic and extensive cooperation between the two countries.

This partnership relies on strong foundations for cooperation, which are strong and renewable, and whose horizons expand in various sectors. At some point, this partnership translated into signing 16 agreements in the presence of the King of Morocco, and created new opportunities for dynamic and extensive cooperation between the two countries.

Today, on behalf of the Kingdom of Morocco, I would like to once again confirm our intentions to continue developing bilateral relations between our countries, especially in priority sectors. Today we have discussed and exchanged views on the energy sector, industry and agriculture. We believe these sectors are priorities. But we also are committed to strengthening trade relations and working to boost trade. As the King of Morocco instructed, we have opened up new horizons for strengthening cooperation in the defence industry and in security.

Speaking about regional and international issues, bilateral discussions are always ongoing. We discuss our positions on various current issues on both the regional and international level. Morocco plays an important role in the region. We also see Morocco in terms of its presence on the African continent and its interest in the African continent. From this perspective, we have discussed possibilities of cooperation and partnership and strengthening our presence in Africa. We believe Africa will be a force in the future; it will play a very important role on the international stage in the decades to come. So we are cooperating to strengthen our presence in Africa. It is very important for us.

Through this visit we affirm our openness and readiness to pursue new horizons of cooperation. Today we have signed 11 important agreements in addition to the other 16 agreements signed in the presence of the heads of our countries – the King of Morocco and President Putin – in March 2016. We now possess a very important arsenal of laws that we can use as a basis to give a new impetus to bilateral relations between the countries.

Mr Prime Minister, once again, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Morocco and I thank you for this visit. We have pledged to continue our cooperation in various spheres and use the outcome of this visit as a starting point to further develop our cooperation.

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues, members of the press, our talks just ended, but before I say anything about the talks, I would like to thank my colleague, Prime Minster of the Government of Morocco, Mr Saad Eddine El Otmani, for his warm welcome, for the excellent opportunity to hold talks and his hospitality.

Now, with regard to the talks, my colleague just said that they were useful and substantive, and follow up on the work that our states have been doing to implement the course toward establishing a strategic partnership. In this sense, the visit of His Royal Majesty, which took place in 2016, was exceptionally important. This visit signified the growing strength of our partnership, and a large number of documents that the government is currently implementing were signed back then.

Today, as my colleague said, we were present at the signing of yet another large package of documents, 11 in all, which cover virtually all aspects of our cooperation, from agriculture to energy, as well as the sphere of culture and education.

Morocco is Russia’s long-time reliable partner. Our relations can be measured in different ways, but they undeniably date back to the 18th century. As is known, an exchange of diplomatic missions took place in the late 19th century. The new state, the Kingdom of Morocco, which became independent, quickly established relations with the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union was the first country to recognise the Kingdom of Morocco as an independent state. These are the milestones of our history, and they are important for putting our relations in perspective. We look forward to these relations continuing to evolve on a solid contractual basis. I am referring to the political will enshrined during the visit of the King of Morocco Mohammed VI to Russia, his meetings with the President of our country, and the talks that were also held by our governments.

The potential for cooperation is quite large. We have an impressive track record. I am referring to the investments that were made at a certain point, the construction projects which were carried out with the technical assistance of the Soviet Union, in particular, the Al-Wahda hydroelectric power project. And, of course, a product line which enjoys an established presence on our market, by which I mean fruit. A significant portion of these fruits are not cultivated in our country, so we are interested in buying more of them from Morocco, which we mentioned today during our talks.

We discussed in detail which new projects could form the basis of our cooperation. Some of them made it into the newly signed agreements, including energy in various forms, and ways of obtaining energy products. This includes, of course, developing contacts in the field of agriculture, and new agreements. This is a two-way street - we expect that we will, in turn, increase our supplies of grain and other crops to Morocco, and Morocco will supply its excellent fruit and other goods to our market.

Of course, tourism is an exciting area of cooperation. Russian citizens have enjoyed visa-free travel to Morocco since 2005. Direct flights are available, especially during the high season. According to the Moroccan authorities, about 50,000 Russian tourists visited Morocco this year.

We are confident that there is good potential for cooperation in high-tech and research-intensive areas. Clearly, we will continue to cooperate in the sphere of culture and education, to which end important documents have been signed as well. We are discovering new areas for ourselves, in particular, as my colleague just mentioned, cooperation in the sphere of military supplies and security.

We will certainly continue to work across all these areas.

Once again, I would like to thank my colleague, Mr El Otmani, for his hospitality. This is my first visit to Morocco and, of course, it has made quite an impression.

Question: Denis Ichyotkin, TASS. Mr Medvedev, what is your vision of prospects for Russian-Moroccan cooperation in the energy sector? Did you discuss the possibility of establishing practical cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union during your talks with the country’s leadership earlier today?

Dmitry Medvedev: The energy sector is a traditional area of cooperation between our countries. I just mentioned what had been done back in the Soviet times. Clearly, we can open new chapters in this cooperation, including new areas, as well as new lines of cooperation in the energy sector. We are set to make use of a wide range of opportunities we are offered, in particular, we believe that there are good prospects for supplying liquefied natural gas to Morocco. But it is not the only area of cooperation. We are ready to discuss all areas of cooperation with our partners, including nuclear energy projects and projects in some other sectors of the economy. We believe that in this context alternative energy may also be of interest to both countries, the technologies that are used in Russia and the opportunities that exist in Morocco, including its climate conditions. We will analyse the opportunities for cooperation in all these areas. Some of them are already covered by the documents signed and, as for others, hopefully, relevant documents will be signed in the near future.   

As for the Eurasian Economic Union, it is a new and large market for Morocco, which comprises five countries – not one. This tends to create more opportunities. Last September, a delegation from the Eurasian Economic Commission visited Rabat.  The first memorandum was signed, and a working group was set up to start the discussion on cooperation between Morocco and the Eurasian Economic Union.  We believe that this is the beginning of ambitious and serious work that could ultimately lead to the presence of the Kingdom of Morocco in all niches of the five countries’ market with an overall population of over 180 million. This might be of interest to both Morocco and the Eurasian Economic Union.

Question (via interpreter): Mr Saad Eddine El Otmani, what is your view of the prospects for Russian-Moroccan relations in the context of the visit of the King of Morocco to Moscow and Mr Medvedev’s current visit to Morocco? 

Saad Eddine El Otmani (via interpreter): As I said a few minutes ago, the visit of the King of Morocco in March 2016 signalled the beginning of a new stage in our relations, especially after signing a declaration on expanded strategic partnership between the two countries. Also, 16 agreements were signed. Today, during the visit of Mr Prime Minister to Rabat we signed 11 agreements. This is a new important stage. These agreements cover various aspects of cooperation, including priority areas like energy, industry and agriculture.

Our cooperation in agriculture is traditional and long-standing. As Mr Medvedev said yesterday, he remembers Moroccan tangerines and oranges from his childhood, with a Maroc label on them, he remembers holding them in his hands, that is, he has retained good memories of Moroccan citrus fruit. That is why we want Moroccan citrus fruit to always be available on the Russian market. We understand that Russia is interested in boosting the supply of Moroccan citrus fruit. We have just learned that Morocco accounts for a third of the Russian citrus fruit market and we believe that this figure can be brought to 50 percent in the future. As you can see, all these agreements offer numerous opportunities for cooperation in agriculture and the energy sector. You already heard what Mr Medvedev said: there are many promising projects in the energy sector, various other sectors and also industry.

There is a very important political issue: I mean the partnership between Morocco and EurAsEC), which we have started to build. This partnership offers Morocco an opportunity to reach out to the market of five countries with a population of 200 million. It is a very important economic and political community, and forging a partnership with it will play a significant role in Morocco’s efforts to secure a well-balanced place for itself in the world, in its relations with the rest of the world.

As you know, under the guidance of His Majesty, we are seeking to build balanced relations with the main centres of power and from this viewpoint this visit is of great significance. Also, we will seek to develop our diplomatic relations based on the results of the visit and we expect it to have a positive impact on our economic, trade and political relations.