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Foreign Ministry director heads to Morocco for talks

Alon Ushpiz to meet with senior Rabat diplomats, days after a plane from the kingdom said to take part in IDF exercise

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

L-R:Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz on June 21, 2021. (Foreign Ministry)
L-R:Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz on June 21, 2021. (Foreign Ministry)

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz flew to Morocco on Tuesday at the behest of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Ushpiz will meet with his Moroccan counterpart Fouad Yazourh, as well as other senior Moroccan diplomatic officials.

The meetings come ahead of the opening of direct flights between the countries, expected to begin in a matter of weeks.

After a 20-year lull in diplomatic relations, Israel and Morocco renewed their ties late last year, amid a wave of normalization agreements with other Arab countries.

While Jerusalem and Rabat did not in the past have full relations — with diplomatic offices in each other’s capital instead of embassies — they maintained close official ties until Morocco suspended them with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.

On Sunday morning, a Moroccan air force plane touched down in Israel’s Hatzor Air Base, reportedly to take part in a multinational Israeli Air Force exercise later this month.

Israeli National Security Adviser speaks to the press at the royal palace in Rabat, Morocco, December 22, 2020. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

The highly unusual landing of the Royal Moroccan Air Force C-130 cargo plane at the Hatzor Air Base near Ashdod was visible on public flight-tracking software, where it was quickly spotted by a number of amateur radar watchers, one of whom shared the information with The Times of Israel.

It appeared to be at least the second time the RMAF cargo plane landed in Israel, the first time being in 1996 when it touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport, according to aviation enthusiast David Weinrich, who tracked that flight at the time.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report. 

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