Foreign Minister Ashkenazi speaks for first time with Moroccan counterpart

In ‘warm and friendly’ chat with Nasser Bourita, ministers discuss implementing bilateral agreements, cooperation on wider regional issues

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, in Jerusalem on June 10, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, in Jerusalem on June 10, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke Tuesday with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, in the first conversation between the two top diplomats since the countries agreed to normalize ties last year.

Ashkenazi described the chat as “warm and friendly.”

“We agreed to work together to rapidly implement the agreements between Morocco and Israel,” Ashkenazi said in a tweet. “We also discussed increasing bilateral cooperation as well as wider regional issues,”

Morocco agreed in 2020 to normalize ties with Israel under a US-brokered deal, joining the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In return, then-US president Donald Trump fulfilled a decades-old goal of Morocco by backing its contested sovereignty in Western Sahara, what Rabat refers to as its “southern provinces.”

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita speaks to journalists in Dakhla, Western Sahara, January 10, 2021. (Noureddine Abakchou/AP)

Initially, Morocco and Israel will maintain liaison offices in one another’s countries, but plan to establish full embassies in the future.

Israel’s chargé d’affaires David Govrin reopened the liaison office in the capital Rabat last week, after 20 years.

Israel’s diplomats are currently operating out of a hotel in Rabat, and will be moving to rented offices soon. Israel still owns its shuttered liaison office in the capital, but sees it as unsuitable for its current needs.

The Prime Minister’s Office as said that a high-level Moroccan delegation will visit Israel at the end of next month and an Israeli delegation will visit Morocco sometime in February, depending on the coronavirus outbreak situation in each country.

Israel and Morocco are hoping to inaugurate direct flights between the countries in the next two months. Israeli diplomats are preparing for a dramatic rise in the number of Israeli tourists to Morocco.

Israel’s envoy to Morocco Dr. David Govrin in the mellah, or Jewish neighborhood, in Rabat, January 2021 (photo credit: Foreign Ministry, courtesy)

Israel and Morocco established low-level diplomatic relations during the 1990s following Israel’s interim peace accords with the Palestinians, but those ties were suspended after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. Nevertheless, informal ties continued, and Israelis could still travel to Morocco as part of organized tours. An estimated 50,000 Israelis travel to Morocco each year, learning about the Jewish community and retracing family histories.

The relationship is also aided by Israel’s massive community of Moroccan Jews, which numbers around 700,000, many of whom maintain a connection to the country. Today, some 3,000 Jews remain in Morocco, most of them in Casablanca.

On top of Rabat, last week saw Israel open missions in Manama, Bahrain and both Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE.

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