The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the North African nation, citing Israel’s willingness to recognize Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Wednesday.
In a letter that the PMO described as “warm,” the monarch said that “the visit will open new opportunities to strengthen the ties between our nations.”
Should it go ahead, the visit will mark the first time Netanyahu visits one of the Arab countries that forged ties with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords, after previous attempts to visit the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were scuppered.
No date for the trip has been set, but National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi will hold talks with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on the matter, the statement said.
On Monday, Morocco announced that Israel had informed Rabat of its decision to recognize its sovereignty over the contested Western Sahara region.
A statement from the Moroccan foreign ministry said that King Mohammed VI received a letter from Netanyahu affirming Israel’s decision to “recognize the sovereignty of Morocco over the territory of Western Sahara.”
Israel has been working to shore up ties with its nascent Arab ally, even as its current right-wing government has caused some consternation among its Abraham Accords partners.
Last month, Morocco postponed a meeting of Israel and its Arab allies that it had been due to host this summer, in response to spiraling violence in the West Bank. Bourita said at the time that he hoped the meeting could still go ahead at a later date when circumstances were more “favorable.”
Rabat and Jerusalem are still working to fully cement relations since announcing the normalizing of ties in 2020 under the Abraham Accords. As part of that deal, brokered by the Trump administration, the US recognized Morocco’s unilateral annexation of Western Sahara. Despite pressure, the Biden administration has not reversed the US recognition of the disputed territory.
The Western Sahara dispute dates back to 1975, when colonial ruler Spain withdrew from the territory, sparking a 15-year war between Morocco and the Polisario Front movement seeking independence in the territory.
Rabat controls nearly 80 percent of the Western Sahara and sees the entire territory, home to abundant phosphates and fisheries, as its sovereign territory.
Rabat advocates for limited autonomy for the vast desert territory, while the Polisario seeks independence and has called for a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, but it has never taken place.
Netanyahu was invited to attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai in May, which would mark his first trip to the United Arab Emirates.
AFP contributed to this report.