Israeli Minister backs Morocco’s sovereignty claim over Western Sahara

During an official visit to Morocco, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said on June 21: “Israel supports Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara. We talked about the close relations between the two countries, as well as the joint projects that we can do together ”.

It is the first time an Israeli minister has publicly expressed his country’s support for Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara region, which it has controlled for decades despite the presence of the Polisario Front’s independence movement.

A statement issued by the Interior Ministry merely states that during his meeting with his Moroccan counterpart Abdelouafi Laftit and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, Shaked publicly expressed Israel’s support for Moroccan sovereignty. The statement did not contain the minister’s exact quote, and the department declined to comment on the matter.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has already addressed this issue, but more generally. In March, in the southern Negev region, Lapid hosted the foreign ministers of the United States, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco at a meeting that was the first of its kind. . Following his meeting with Bourita on the sidelines of the Negev summit, Lapid issued a statement indicating that the participating countries will work together to address “attempts to weaken Moroccan sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

On the same occasion, Lapid praised Spain’s recent decision to support Morocco’s autonomy plan and said: “We are determined to achieve prosperity and peace in this region and beyond. In this context, Spain’s declaration last week favored the Moroccan autonomy plan. Moroccan autonomy plan For Western Sahara, the plan, which others have already approved, is a positive development.The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to Al-Monitor that the March 2022 declaration reflects Israel’s official position on the matter.

Israel was forced to get involved in the controversial Western Sahara issue when the Trump administration struck the Ibrahim agreement with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. As part of an agreement between the United States and Morocco to renew diplomatic relations with Israel, the United States agreed to recognize the country’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

On December 10, the White House declared that “the United States recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara and reaffirms its support for Morocco’s serious, credible and realistic proposals for autonomy as the sole basis for a just and lasting solution to the conflict in Western Sahara territory.

Israel has not issued a similar statement. Still, Algeria, which supports the Polisario Front, expressed anger at Israel a few months ago, saying Jerusalem is at least partly responsible for US recognition.

Shaked’s visit marked for the first time that an Israeli interior minister had officially visited Morocco. He also accepted Israel’s recruitment of Moroccan workers into the construction and care sector. After the meeting, Shaked tweeted: “Our goal Signing of the final agreement Next month to bring foreign workers from Morocco to Israel. We also talked about the challenges of confronting Iran, which the two countries share. »

At the same time, Ambassador Alon Bar, Head of the Strategic Political Department of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, traveled to Morocco today on a working visit, where he had a political dialogue with the Head of Department of the Middle East from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs, Fouad Ahraf.

“The purpose of the dialogue was to discuss how this is done. Bilateral cooperation The Israeli Ministry said that relations between the two countries could be deepened,” including by bringing Moroccan workers to Israel, encouraging mutual investment and tourism and encouraging trade between the two countries. to lande.

The opinion added: “This conversation also sets out the framework for the regional structure and the follow-up measures agreed by the parties at the Negev summit, which was held on the initiative of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in March this year.

Israel and Morocco renewed diplomatic relations in December 2020. Ambassador David Govrin – one of Israel’s most experienced and longest-serving diplomats – is the head of the Israeli mission. The Israeli diplomatic team in Rabat has been very active since the office opened in August 2021, helping Israeli businessmen, artists, intellectuals and tourists build relationships with their Moroccan counterparts.

Lapid said on June 15 that his Moroccan colleague Bourita is expected to visit Israel this summer to officially open the country’s embassy in Israel. Israel was able to officially open its embassy in Rabat on the same occasion.

As Israel and Morocco renewed their ties, analysts claimed that Rabat participated in the Ibrahim Accords mainly because of the Western Sahara issue, but since then many senior Moroccan officials have expressed their country’s commitment to normalize relations with Israel. In fact, cultural and trade relations are developing rapidly, and so is security cooperation.

Secretary of Defense Benny Gantz visited Morocco last November and signed a historic security cooperation agreement. Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivai visited Morocco in February last year and signed a series of trade and investment agreements. She said the two countries hope to increase bilateral trade from $ 131 million a year to $ 500 million over the next five years. direct flights Between Tel Aviv and Rabat, work began a few months ago.

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