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Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, centre right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, sign cooperation agreements between the two countries, in Rabat, on August 11, 2021. Image Credit: AP

RABAT: The foreign ministers of Morocco and Israel signed three accords on Wednesday during the first visit by a top official from the Jewish state since ties were normalised last year.

Nasser Bourita and his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid signed agreements on political consultations, aviation and culture.

Lapid told reporters the accords would “bring our countries innovation and opportunities for the benefit of our children - and their children - for years to come”.

“Today, we are restoring peace, restoring friendship,” Lapid said.

Morocco was the fourth Arab state to establish ties with Israel last year after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Bourita said that during his talks with Lapid the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories was raised.

“King Mohammad VI insists on the need to break the current impasse and resume negotiations, as the only means of reaching a solution based on two states living side by side on the 1967 borders,” Bourita said.

The monarch had reassured Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas after the normalisation of ties that Morocco would continue to support the Palestinian cause.

“It is urgent that measures be taken today to restore confidence and maintain calm, to open a political horizon to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Bourita said.

Lapid said he preferred to focus on the normalisation of ties between Israel and Arab countries.

“Something is happening in the region,” he said.

On Thursday, Lapid will officially open Israel’s diplomatic representation in the capital Rabat.

The American embassy in Rabat called Lapid’s visit “a major step forward”, in a message on Twitter.

“Strengthening this relationship will create new opportunities for peace and prosperity to flourish in the region,” the embassy added.

It listed the “real benefits” created including “direct commercial flights, economic cooperation, and the opening of liaison offices”.

Before the Bourita-Lapid meeting, the Israeli delegation visited the royal mausoleum, where kings Hassan II and Mohammad V are buried.

Lapid is also expected to visit the Beth-El synagogue in Casablanca on his two-day visit, the Israeli foreign ministry said.

“Proud to represent Israel during this historic visit,” Lapid wrote on Twitter, just after his flight operated by Israeli national airline El Al landed.

His visit comes a little over two weeks after direct flights were launched between Israel and Morocco.

Since then, the first Israeli tourists have flooded into Morocco’s tourist magnet Marrakesh, and into Casablanca.

Before the pandemic, between 50,000 and 70,000 Israeli tourists - mainly of Moroccan origin - had visited annually, albeit by transiting through third countries.

The North African country hosts the Arab world’s largest Jewish community of some 3,000 people.

They are the remnant of a once much larger community. Some 700,000 Jews of Moroccan descent now live in Israel.

Morocco and Israel maintained liaison offices in the 1990s, before closing them during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, that raged from 2000 to 2005.

Lapid’s visit to Rabat follows a June trip to the United Arab Emirates, where he inaugurated the new Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi.