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After Israel-Morocco deal, US launches work on consulate in Western Sahara

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (C) and David Schenker, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs - who is wearing a traditional dress for men called "Darraa" - (center-R) pose with other officials for a picture after their meeting in Dakhla, in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, on January 10, 2021. (Photo by Fadel SENNA / AFP)
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (C) and David Schenker, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs - who is wearing a traditional dress for men called "Darraa" - (center-R) pose with other officials for a picture after their meeting in Dakhla, in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, on January 10, 2021. (Photo by Fadel SENNA / AFP)

The United States starts the “process of establishing” a consulate in contested Western Sahara, after Washington recognized Morocco’s sovereignty there in exchange for Rabat normalizing ties with Israel.

US ambassador David Fischer visits the port of Dakhla, 1,440 kilometers (895 miles) southwest of Rabat in the far south of Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, to mark the start of work on a diplomatic office.

“It is such an honor for me to visit this stunningly beautiful and critically important region of Morocco, and to begin the process of establishing a US diplomatic presence here,” Fischer says, according to the US embassy.

Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the pro-independence Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.

Last year, Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in agreeing to normalize ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.

In return, US President Donald Trump fulfilled a decades-old Moroccan goal by backing its contested sovereignty over the barren but phosphate-rich region, which lies next to key Atlantic fishing zones.

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita says “Morocco feels stronger in its legitimate fight for its territorial integrity… with the support of its friends.”

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