Morocco is all set to become the fourth Arab country in four months to recognize Israel. In a historic US-brokered deal, the two countries agreed to establish “full diplomatic relations”. The announcement was made on Thursday after Donald Trump’s phone call with King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
A triumphant US President, Donald Trump announced the agreement on Twitter this Thursday.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!,” the tweet read.
The deal includes an immediate reopening of liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat, two decades after the relations broke down following a Palestinian uprising in 2000. The Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu termed the deal “historic” and expressed his desire to “work as rapidly as possible to establish full diplomatic relations”. The PM announced plans to institute direct flights from Israel to Morocco as well. The Moroccan King had expressed the same desire earlier during the telephonic conversation with the US President.
The agreement also entails US recognition of Moroccan claims over the West Saharan region. The region has been marred with conflict over territorial claims between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front (a breakaway group) for decades. Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday :
“Today, I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!”
The reactions to the development have been mixed. While Oman, UAE, and Egypt welcomed the move, Iran and the Palestinians termed it “betrayal” and a stab in the back. The Polisario Front condemned the move in the strongest terms.
“Trump’s decision does not change the legal nature of the disputed Saharan territory because the international community does not recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara,” the statement from the Front read.
The deal was met with a lukewarm reaction from the UN. The representative of the Secretary-General of the UN maintained that the UN’s position over West Sahara remained “unchanged”. Additionally, the UN expressed hope that the development would lead to positive developments in the Middle East. The EU’s position over the development was similar to that of the UN’s.
“Welcome important steps in relations between Israel & Morocco. This will further advance the normalization of Israeli/Arab relations, contributing to peace efforts in the Middle East.
Western Sahara: EU supports the efforts of the UNSG in line with relevant UNSC resolutions”, tweeted Josep Borrell Fontelles, the High Representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.
The move comes on the back of fresh US efforts to garner support for Israel. This might also be the final major step taken by the Trump administration with regards to the Middle East. It is yet to be seen how President-elect Joe Biden, who vowed to continue the support for Israel during the campaign, will react to Trump’s departure from the longstanding US West Sahara policy.