King of Morocco starts visit to France
Morocco-France, Politics, 7/12/1999
King Hassan II of Morocco is undertaking as of this Monday a visit to France during which he will attend the traditional military parade, held on the occasion of France's national day, and hold talks with President Jacques Chirac.
A statement of the Moroccan minister of royal household, protocol and chancellery said the king will attend with the French president the military parade on July 14, in which a detachment of the Moroccan royal guard will take part in recognition of the Moroccan army's participation in the allied victory of 1945. This is the first time in France that a non-European army is taking part in the annual parade of July 14.
The king is also expected to dedicate in Paris an avenue named after his father, the late King Mohammed V, who was made "companion of liberation" by French President Gen. De Gaulle. On the king's agenda are also meetings with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, heads of major enterprises and journalists.
The king's second visit to France in three years is taking place as France is celebrating Morocco through a yearlong event called "Le Temps du Maroc." As many as 200 events are featured in Paris while regions are hosting 1,600 other cultural and economic events destined to make Morocco more known in France, not only as a traditionally exotic destination for tourists but also as an economic partner.
The excellence of Moroccan-French relations are also evidenced by the fact that the French president visited Morocco in July 1995, in his first official visit to an Arab state when he was elected.
In March 1996, the Moroccan king visited France and delivered a speech at the French Parliament (national assembly).
The two countries' socialist prime ministers have also exchanged visits. In December 1997, the head of French government, Lionel Jospin, visited Morocco and is expected back next fall while his Moroccan peer, Abderrahmane Youssoufi, also went to France in 1998.
For the French ambassador in Morocco, Michel De Bonnecorse, the participation of the king of Morocco in the official ceremonies of France's national day is "an exceptional gesture" to "prove the exceptional."
The French diplomat told MAP, that bilateral cooperation is based on solid foundations as it represents the largest budget of the French Foreign Ministry. He said in this regard that various forms of bilateral cooperation were worth in 1998 more than three billion French Francs (including 700 million in debt swapping), accounting for some 1.6% of Morocco's GDP.
He added that Morocco has increased its purchases from France, becoming France's first client after countries of the Organization of Cooperation and Development in Europe (OCDE) and China. He cited, in particular, the purchase by the Royal marine of two French frigates, French participation in the modernization of the Moroccan Railways Board (ONCF) and the concession granted to France to build and operate the Atlantic port of Tangiers (northern Morocco).
The French ambassador added that France will be giving priority to territory development, which has become a major issue in Morocco.
Asked to evaluate Morocco's chances to win the bid to host the 2006 world soccer cup, De Bonnecorse said Morocco enjoys major assets, embodied by its stability and safety.
He also cited as other assets geographic proximity to Europe and Morocco's recognized organization skills. He gave the example of the international conference which launched the World Trade Organization held in Marrakesh in 1994. Given that only three months were left before the event's date, no other country, except Morocco, submitted a candidacy, he said, and France supported Morocco and asserted that the organization would be perfect.
He concluded that France will also support Morocco's bid to host the world soccer cup and testify that "Morocco deserves to host the 2006 Mundial."
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