Morocco resumes ties with Israel, reiterates support for Palestinian rights

The US president also “recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory,” the White House said in a statement after a phone conversation between Trump and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.
Thursday 10/12/2020
 combination picture of US President Donald Trump and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. (AFP/ REUTERS
Combination picture of US President Donald Trump and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. (AFP/ REUTERS

RABAT--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.

However, Moroccan King Mohammed VI  said his country’s quest for full sovereignty over the Western Sahara “will never be at the expense of the struggle of the Palestinian people for its legitimate rights.”

In a phone call Thursday, King Mohammed VI informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the content of a telephone conversation he held with US President Donald Trump, said Morocco’s official news agency MAP.

In his conversation with the Palestinian leader, King Mohamed VI stressed that Morocco’s stance in support of the Palestinian cause is “steadfast and unchanged.” He also pointed out that the kingdom “backs the two-state solution and believes that negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis is the only way to reach a final and durable solution to the conflict.”

King Mohammed VI added that Morocco always “considers the Palestinian cause as being at the same level (as) the cause of the Moroccan Sahara. Morocco’s actions to further anchor the Moroccan character of the Moroccan Sahara will never be at the expense of the struggle of the Palestinian people for its legitimate rights.”

The White House announced that Trump and Moroccan King Mohammed VI had spoken and that the Moroccan leader agreed “to resume diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel and expand economic and cultural cooperation to advance regional stability.”

Morocco and Israel had respectively maintained liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat in the 1990s, before closing them in 2000.

Trump tweeted that “Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!”

The US president also “recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory,” the White House said in a statement.

Trump — due to leave office on January 20 — has racked up historic advances in bringing Israel and Arab states together.

Morocco joins the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in the White House’s “Abraham Accords” initiative.

Under the agreement, Morocco will establish full diplomatic relations and resume official contacts with Israel, grant overflights and also direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis.

US shift on Sahara issue 

Trump’s agreement to change US policy toward the Western Sahara was the linchpin to securing Morocco’s agreement and a major shift from a mostly neutral stance.

In Rabat, Morocco’s royal court said Washington would open a consulate in Western Sahara as part of Morocco’s deal with Israel.

A White House proclamation said the United States believes that an independent Sahrawi State is “not a realistic option for resolving the conflict and that genuine autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution.”

Moroccan tribesmen demonstrate in support of their country near a border crossing point in Guerguerat in the Western Sahara, on November 24, 2020, after the intervention of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the area. (AFP)

“We urge the parties to engage in discussions without delay, using Morocco’s autonomy plan as the only framework to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution,” it said.

Washington supported a 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the Western Sahara’s Polisario Front independence movement that called for a referendum to resolve the issue. Last month, after a border incident, the Polisario pulled out of that deal and announced a return to armed struggle.

Trump issued a proclamation formalising the new US position and tweeted that “Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!” in Western Sahara.