Morocco-Israel ties 'already normal': Moroccan foreign minister

AFP , Sunday 13 Dec 2020

'Israel's relations with Morocco are special and can't be compared to the relations that Israel has with any other Arab country,' Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said

Morocco's foreign minister Nasser Bourita AFP

Morocco's relations with Israel are unique in the Arab world and bilateral ties were "already normal" before a "normalisation" deal was announced, Morocco's foreign minister told Israeli media Sunday.

Morocco on Thursday announced a "resumption of relations" with Israel, shortly after US President Donald Trump tweeted that Rabat and Israel had "agreed to full diplomatic relations".

Morocco closed its liason office in Tel Aviv in 2000 at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Morocco's announcement is widely seen as making it the fourth Arab country this year to unveil plans to normalise ties with Israel through a US brokered deal, following the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

But in an interview with Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper on Sunday, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said: "Israel's relations with Morocco are special and can't be compared to the relations that Israel has with any other Arab country."

"From our perspective, we aren't talking about normalisation because relations were already normal," Bourita was quoted as saying by the paper.

"We're talking about (re-formalising) the relations between the countries to the relations we had, because there have been relations the entire time. They never stopped," he added.

A palace statement last week said that King Mohammed VI had agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel with "minimal delay."

That followed President Donald Trump's recognition of Morocco's contested sovereignty in Western Sahara, infuriating the Algerian-backed Polisario Front which controls about one-fifth of the vast, arid region.

Bourita, in the interview, highlighted Morocco's enduring connection to Israel through its domestic Jewish community and the estimated 700,000 Israeli Jews of Moroccan descent.

"Morocco has an important history with the Jewish community, a history that is special in the Arab world," he told the paper.

"It's my understanding that just this past year 70,000 Israelis came to visit here."

The Palestinians have denounced the string of normalisation deals, which broke with decades of Arab League consensus that there should be no recognition of Israel until it agrees to a peace that includes the creation of a Palestinian state.

Abu Dhabi and Manama have already concluded deals with Israel.

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