WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said Thursday that Israel and Morocco have agreed to normalize relations. The United States will recognize Morocco’s claim in the disputed Western Sahara region as part of an agreement announced before the end of Trump’s term.
Trump said Israel and Morocco would restore diplomatic and other ties, including the immediate reopening of liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat and eventually the opening of embassies. U.S. officials said the airlines would have collective excess rights.
The White House has said that Trump and King Mohammed VI of Morocco will “resume diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel and expand economic and cultural cooperation to promote regional stability.”
“Today is another historic breakthrough! Our two great friends, Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco, have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a major step towards peace in the Middle East!” Trump tweeted.
United States Recognize Morocco’s claim On the Western Sahara, The former Spanish territory of North Africa, has long been embroiled in controversy that has confused international negotiators for decades. Trump noted that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as an independent nation in 1776, a year after the United States declared independence from Britain.
“It is very appropriate that we recognize their sovereignty over the Western Sahara,” Trump said.
The deal is the result of negotiations between the president’s senior adviser, son – in – law Jared Kushner, and his chief international negotiator, Avi Bergowitz. “This is a significant step forward for the people of Israel and Morocco.
Morocco is the fourth Arab country to recognize Israel as the Trump administration seeks to expand its diplomatic framework, which began in the summer with an agreement between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates.
Bahrain and Sudan are following suit, and executives are trying to bring Saudi Arabia into the group.
“The President reaffirmed his support for Morocco’s program of aggressive, credible and realistic autonomy as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the Western Sahara, and the President recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara region,” the White House said.
All of these countries are geographically far removed from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which makes it easier to conclude agreements with Israel and the United States for their own interests. Morocco also has close ties with Saudi Arabia, which has indirectly supported the normalization process with Israel, even as it has stopped making peace with the Palestinians.
It has long been rumored that Morocco, a country with centuries of Jewish history, is ready to establish relations with Israel.
Before Israel was founded in 1948, Morocco had a large Jewish population, many of whose ancestors emigrated from Spain and Portugal to North Africa during the Spanish Inquisition. Today, hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews have traced their heritage to Morocco, one of the largest sectors of the Israeli community in the country. A small community of Jews, estimated at several thousand people, continues to live in Morocco.
Morocco has had informal relations with Israel for many years. Following Israel’s interim peace agreements with the Palestinians, they established low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but those relations were suspended after the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising in 2000.
Since then, informal relations have continued, and 50,000 Israelis travel to Morocco each year to learn about the Jewish community and retrieve their family histories.
US support for Morocco’s Western Sahara claim has long been a rumored, but unconfirmed, bargaining chip talking about diplomatic relations. Morocco has called the vast desert its “southern provinces” since 1975, and the Policario Front, based in southern Algeria, wants its independence. The recent dust issue with Policario made headlines again.
Associated Press writers Joseph Federman in Jerusalem and Elaine Conley in Paris contributed to the report.