RABAT – French President Francois Hollande on Thursday hailed "decisive steps" taken by Morocco towards democracy.
"Every day, your country takes decisive steps towards democracy," he said in a speech to parliament on the second and final day of a visit to the North African country.
He praised in particular a new constitution introduced by King Mohammed VI in 2011 in response to Arab Spring protests then sweeping the region, saying it guaranteed "tolerance" and "recognised the diverse character of Morocco's identity."
A key aspect of the text was its support for the country's large Berber community, with their Amazigh language officially recognised.
"Of course everything does not go as quickly as some would like, There are always criticisms, improvements. That is is your responsibility. And our duty is to accompany you through your options," the president said.
"I also know that, despite this progress, the are still expectations… There is impatience everywhere… But I know that you have the desire to face up to and achieve what you have promised."
The president began his visit, followed by a large French press corps. In a square in the city centre, Hollande was greeted by a cheering but sparse Moroccan crowd, before heading to the royal palace for talks with the king.
At the palace dozens of cooperation accords were signed by ministers and business leaders, notably in the transport, agriculture, education and renewable energy sectors.
Later, Hollande inaugurated a pilot water purifying plant in Casablanca, Morocco's largest city, built by an affiliate of French utility firm GDF Suez and capable of treating 3,800 cubic metres of water daily.
Speaking to the French community in Casablanca afterwards, the president laid the emphasis firmly on "consolidating the friendship" and "confirming the ties" between the two countries, making only oblique reference to the political crisis in France.
Around 750 French companies are operating in Morocco, employing between 80,000 and 100,000 people. "We are Morocco's largest trading partner, largest investor, and we will spare no effort to maintain our rank," insisted a source close to the French Presidency.