Tensions between Morocco, Saudi Arabia escalates over Yemen, Western Sahara

Morocco scaled down its participation in the coalition in May 2015 after one of its jets was reportedly shot down by the Houthis

Morocco scaled down its participation in the coalition in May 2015 after one of its jets was reportedly shot down by the Houthis

The coalition's denial comes on the heels of a CNN investigation published earlier this week that found Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners had supplied American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hard-line Salafi militias and other factions battling in Yemen - a violation of their arms sales agreements with the United States.

Speaking to Russian press agency Sputnik, Bourita stated that the information, reported by American news agency Associated Press, was "unfounded".

"This targeting operation is an extension to the previous two military operations on (January 19th and 31st, 2019), that were conducted by the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition to target and destroy an Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia's integrated network for UAV capabilities and its logistical facilities, in addition to locations of foreign experts", he added.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said in an interview last month with Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera that "on the basis of developments" in Yemen, "there was a change in the form and the content" of Morocco's participation.

Rabat had already scaled down its participation in coalition activities in May of 2015 after a Moroccan F-16 was reportedly shot down by the Houthis. Morocco's withdrawal from the war in Yemen was no longer a matter of if but when, especially after the intensification of the Saudi-led offensive and seemingly indiscriminate killing of innocent Yemenis.

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Bourita also hinted that Rabat had serious reservations about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's recent tour of other Arab countries, amid worldwide condemnation of the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul. According to one of the officials, Morocco declined to host the Saudi crown prince, citing the Moroccan king's "busy agenda".

Morocco's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mustapha Mansouri, did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.

Broadcast by Al Arabiya, the documentary on Western Sahara questions the territorial integrity of Morocco for an area of the desert contested for over 40 years.

Morocco claims Western Sahara as part of its territory while the Sahrawi people there demands self-determination, which is supported by Morocco's eastern neighbor Algeria.

Yemen's four-year war and ensuing economic collapse have unleashed the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis with 14 million of its 29 million population staring at starvation.

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