Israel & Morocco to Normalise Ties as US Recognises Rabat’s Claim to Western Sahara

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 10 (APP): Israel and Morocco will normalize relations and the United States is to recognize Western Sahara as part of the North African kingdom, US President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Thursday.

Morocco thus becomes the fourth Arab country to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel in four months, following the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan. Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, was claimed by Morocco in 1957 and is believed to have significant offshore oil reserves and mineral resources. Its indigenous population rejects Moroccan control, however, and between 1975 and 1991 the Polisario Front fought an insurgency against Moroccan presence.

Polisario estimates the indigenous population of Western Sahara to be between 350,000 and 500,000 and has long called for their right to a referendum on independence, something that has also been promised by United Nations Security Council resolutions. At the United Nations, Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remains committed to the Security Council resolutions on Western Sahara.

In his tweet, President Trump said, “Today, I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!” In a separate tweet, the president then added: “Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the deal as “another great light of peace”.

The Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement, said it “regrets highly” Trump’s decision but will continue its struggle, according to news report. Though Israel and Morocco have not had full diplomatic ties since the former’s founding in 1948, they have nonetheless shared relations and intelligence. Morocco and Israel began low-level ties in 1993 after the latter reached a peace agreement with the Palestinian Liberation Organization as part of the Oslo Accords.

But Rabat suspended relations with Israel after the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. In February, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lobbied the United States to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region in exchange for Rabat taking steps to normalize ties with Israel.

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