Morocco confirms 'resumption' of diplomatic relations with Israel

Morocco confirms 'resumption' of diplomatic relations with Israel
King Mohammed VI said the move in no way affected Morocco's "ongoing and sustained commitment to the just Palestinian cause".
3 min read
11 December, 2020
The royal statement confirmed an earlier announcement by US President Donald Trump [Getty]

Morocco confirmed Thursday it would resume diplomatic relations with Israel "with minimal delay" and lauded as "historic" a decision by Washington to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.

Following a telephone call between US President Donald Trump and King Mohammed VI, the Moroccan ruler said his country would "resume official contacts.... and diplomatic relations with minimal delay" with Israel, according to a statement by the royal palace.

He also announced that Rabat would also develop technological and trade ties with Tel Aviv, as well as allow direct flights between the two countries.

Morocco and Israel had respectively maintained liaison offices in their respective capitals in the 1990s, before closing them in 2000.

A senior official at Morocco's foreign ministry described the breakthrough with Israel as "not... a recognition, but a normalisation, a resumption of relations that existed before", during a briefing in Rabat. 

The King said these "measures do not in any manner affect Morocco's ongoing and sustained commitment to the just Palestinian cause", according to the royal statement.

He reiterated Rabat's commitment to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "based on two states living side by side in peace and security".

Morocco would continue to "contribute efficaciously... to a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East," the statement said.

In a phonecall with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reported by The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site, the King said negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were the "sole path to achieving a comprehensive, permanent and decisive solution to the conflict".

The King told the Palestinian leader he "would never relinquish his role in defending the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people".

After the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, Morocco is the fourth Arab state since August to commit to establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. 

'Morocco's sovereignty'

The Moroccan king also "sent his sincere thanks to the US president" for his decision to recognise Rabat's sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco's control, where tensions have simmered since the 1970s.

Mohammed VI hailed the "constructive position of the United States", which "reinforces the dynamic of the consecration of the innately Moroccan nature of (Western) Sahara".

His statement also alluded to the "supportive positions" of other "friendly countries", in light of several nations opening consulates in the Moroccan-controlled northern portion of Western Sahara.   

The UAE in early November became the first Arab country to open a diplomatic mission in the Moroccan-controlled part of the territory, before Jordan announced it would follow suit and Rabat said Bahrain would also open a consulate there.

Read more: Bahrain to open consulate in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara

An Algeria-backed independence movement - which holds a fifth of Western Sahara - has campaigned for a vote on self-determination through decades of war and deadlock.

Morocco's foreign ministry said that the US's recognition of "Morocco's sovereignty" over Western Sahara, alongside strong support for Rabat's vision of autonomy for the disputed region under a UN-led political process, represented a "historic breakthrough".

Agencies contributed to this report.

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