ACTOR Javier Bardem has sparked a serious diplomatic conflict between France and Morocco, after an offhand remark during the presentation of his new documentary.
The conflict has escalated since last Thursday, when Bardem referred to a French ambassador’s description of the relationship between France and Morocco.
Bardem said that in 2011, a French ambassador in the United States had privately told him that to France, Morocco was like “a lover you sleep with every night, whom you’re not particularly in love with but must defend. In other words, we look the other way.”
The Moroccan government reacted angrily after the comments were published in ‘Le Monde’ and other French media.
Mustapha Khalfi, the Moroccan communications minister, on Sunday demanded an explanation ‘beyond a simple statement by the Foreign Ministry to repair the damage done by those words, whether they were falsely attributed or real’.
Mr Khalfi called the comments ‘scandalous and unacceptable’ and said they were ‘a blow to all Moroccans’.
Thousands protested this week in front of the French embassy in Moroccan capital Rabat, and on Monday French President Francois Hollande was forced to phone Morocco’s Kind Mohammed VI.
Although it is not known what the two rulers discussed, both agreed to ‘work in the spirit of the exceptional relations that unite Morocco and France’.
Javier Bardem, who produced the documentary, said on Wednesday that he regretted the way his comments had sparked this conflict.
“France and Spain last year opposed an historic initiative by the United States to set up a human right supervision mechanism in the Sahara,” said Mr Bardem.
“The [UN] Minurso mission will be renewed this April and the only important thing is to debate that. This is a feeling which is clearly neither anti-Moroccan nor anti-French; it is simply pro-human rights.”
Spanish production company Morena Films issued a statement on Monday to clarify that the comments were not made by the French ambassador to the United States, but by the representative before the UN, Gerard Araud.
The documentary, called ‘Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony’ and directed by Alvaro Longoria, explores the violation of human rights that have been experienced by the Saharaui refugees in Western Sahara.