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Israel pushing for ties with Morocco in exchange for US recognition of its rule over Western Sahara

Polisario troops in Western Sahara [Defensionem/Facebook]
Polisario troops in Western Sahara [Defensionem/Facebook]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been discussing a three-way agreement that would see the United States recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara in exchange for having Rabat take steps to normalise ties with Tel Aviv, Israeli broadcaster Channel 13 reported.

Netanyahu has been trying in recent months to make the US promote his plan, as it will raise the chances for him getting a high-profile public visit to Morocco as well as being a major diplomatic achievement for Morocco’s King, Mohammed VI.

In addition, the report claimed, US President Donald Trump can gloat of having advanced ties between Israel and an Arab state, should the deal go through.

However, the spread of sovereignty of Morocco on Western Sahara was a deal always strongly opposed by former national security adviser John Bolton.

READ: With Morocco’s exclusion from the Berlin Conference, it should revert to assertive diplomacy

Following Bolton’s departure in September, Netanyahu reportedly began raising the matter again with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It’s been more than 40 years since Morocco claimed sovereignty over Western Sahara, after it occupied large swathes of the area in 1975 as Spain withdrew from the area and later annexed the territories in a move not recognised internationally.

According to the publication, contacts between the two countries intensified after a secret meeting between Netanyahu and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco Nasser Burita during the UN General Assembly in September 2018.

That meeting was the result of a back channel established between Bourita and Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, reported Arutz Sheva.

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It also reported that Netanyahu wanted to reach an agreement before the April elections of 2019, but the plan was dismissed after the media got information about the secret visit of Ben-Shabbat to Morocco.

Though the countries have no formal relations, Morocco has long maintained informal but close intelligence ties with Israel and Israelis are allowed to visit there.

Last week, Morocco received three Israeli reconnaissance drones as part of $48 million arms deal, to counter extremist groups and fight rebel movements in the Western Sahara, French website Intelligence Online reported.

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