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Morocco, Israel mark first anniversary of US-brokered renewal of ties

Foreign ministers of three countries — Nasser Bourita, Yair Lapid and Antony Blinken — hold video conference; Moroccan FM accepts invitation to visit Israel

A picture taken in the office of Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita's (top-R) in the capital Rabat, shows him and his counterparts Israel's Yair Lapid (top-L) and Antony Blinken  of the US (Bottom), take part in a virtual meeting, on December 22, 2021. (AFP)
A picture taken in the office of Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita's (top-R) in the capital Rabat, shows him and his counterparts Israel's Yair Lapid (top-L) and Antony Blinken of the US (Bottom), take part in a virtual meeting, on December 22, 2021. (AFP)

RABAT, Morocco — Morocco, Israel and the United States on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the US-sponsored resumption of diplomatic relations between the North African kingdom and the Jewish state.

During a videoconference, the foreign ministers of the three countries — Nasser Bourita, Yair Lapid and Antony Blinken — welcomed a partnership aimed at establishing what the US secretary of state called “an achievement that has deepened ties, partnerships and avenues to pursue shared goals.”

Bourita said Rabat was committed to help achieve “a lasting peace in the region.”

Morocco renewed official relations with Israel in December last year, two decades after it cut ties with the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

The rapprochement came amid a string of normalization deals between Israel and several Arab countries, brokered by the administration of then-US president Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Blinken hailed what he called “a positive step for the region as we aim to widen the circle of peace.”

Bourita also accepted an invitation from Lapid to visit Israel “as soon as possible.”

Despite pro-Palestinian sympathies in Morocco, the renewal of relations with Israel did not spark major protest, as Washington at the same time recognized the kingdom’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco controls most of Western Sahara and considers the former Spanish colony part of its sovereign territory, while neighboring Algeria backs the Polisario Front independence movement.

Morocco and Israel had previously established diplomatic relations in the early 1990s.

A large Jewish community once flourished in the kingdom, and a year after ties were restored, normalization is proceeding apace.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz made an unprecedented visit last month that saw the signing of a security pact that angered Algeria and the Palestinians.

Media in both countries have since reported on Moroccan acquisition of Israeli defense technology.

Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai is also expected to visit early next year, media in the kingdom have reported.

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