Washington: Israel and Morocco agreed on Thursday to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.
As part of the agreement, US President Donald Trump agreed to recognize Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old territorial dispute with Morocco pitted against the Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.
Morocco's Royal Court said the United States will open a consulate in the Western Sahara as part of its deal to secure US recognition for Moroccan sovereignty over the territory.
Trump sealed the agreement in a phone call on Thursday with Morocco's King Mohammed VI, the senior US official said. Morocco is the fourth country since August to strike a deal aimed at normalizing relations with Israel. The others were the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
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.
"They are going reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open embassies. And they are going to promote economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies," White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told Reuters.
"Today the administration has achieved another historic milestone. President Trump has brokered a peace agreement between Morocco and Israel " the fourth such agreement between Israel and an Arab/Muslim nation in four months.
"Through this historic step, Morocco is building on its longstanding bond with the Moroccan Jewish community living in Morocco and throughout the world, including in Israel. This is a significant step forward for the people of Israel and Morocco.
"It further enhances Israels security, while creating opportunities for Morocco and Israel to deepen their economic ties and improve the lives of their people." A White House statement on the phone call between Trump and the king of Morocco said Trump "reaffirmed his support for Morocco's serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the Western Sahara territory." "And as such the president recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory," the statement said.
With Trump to leave office on Jan. 20, the Morocco deal could be among the last his team, led by Kushner and US envoy Avi Berkowitz, is able to negotiate before they give way to President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration.
While Biden is expected to move U.S. foreign policy away from Trump's "America First" posture, he has indicated he will continue the pursuit of what Trump calls "the Abraham Accords" between Israel and Arab and Muslim nations.
Morocco confirms 'resumption' of diplomatic relations
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.
Morocco and Israel had respectively maintained liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat in the 1990s, before closing them in 2000.
On other had Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Thursday's U.S.-brokered normalisation deal with Morocco as "another great light of peace", saying there would be direct flights between the countries and the opening of diplomatic missions.
While Israeli cabinet minister Rafael Peretz described Thursday's announcement as "historic and joyous", in the first response from Israe l."My parents, who immigrated from Morocco and left their entire lives behind, always spoke of peace and about good relations with the Arab neighbours in Morocco," he tweeted. "The time has come for us to do so, too."