Morocco complains to Israel about minister’s photo with rival leader
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Morocco complains to Israel about minister’s photo with rival leader

Foreign Ministry says Ayoub Kara’s brief meeting with Sahrawi Republic PM did not receive official approval

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Likud Minister Ayoub Kara meets with prime minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar in Ecuador on May 24, 2017.  (Courtesy)
Likud Minister Ayoub Kara meets with prime minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar in Ecuador on May 24, 2017. (Courtesy)

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara has again landed himself in diplomatic hot water after he posed last month for a photo with the leader of a controversial African state, spurring Morocco to make a rare official complaint to Israel over the meeting.

Morocco, sending a message via an Israeli embassy in Europe, protested the meeting between Kara (Likud) and the Prime Minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar, saying it could not tolerate such support of its neighbor-rival, Channel 2 news reported Wednesday.

The Sahrawi Republic is a partially recognized state that controls a thin strip of area in the Western Sahara region but claims sovereignty over the entire territory. Morocco, however, controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and rejects any Sahrawi claims to it.

Kara’s meeting with Taleb Omar took place on the sidelines of the May swearing-in ceremony of Lenin Moreno as the Ecuador’s new leader. Kara attended the ceremony in the capital Quito along with leaders of South American nations and delegations from around the world and posted photos of himself with representatives from the Palestinian Authority along with delegates from Oman, Qatar and Yemen and other Arab nations.

Likud Minister Ayoub Kara (r) meets with representatives from Oman, Yemen and Qatar in Ecuador on May 24, 2017. (Courtesy)
Likud Minister Ayoub Kara (r) meets with representatives from Oman, Yemen and Qatar in Ecuador on May 24, 2017. (Courtesy)

Responding to the protests from Morocco, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that the meetings were not coordinated or approved by the Prime Minister’s Office, according to Channel 2.

Israel does not have official diplomatic ties with Morocco but the north African state is considered one of the Arab world’s friendliest nations toward Israel. Approximately 45,000 Israeli tourists visit Morocco annually, Kadoch estimates.

Ministry officials declined to say how a minister could have attended an official function abroad without receiving a briefing beforehand.

Kara dismissed the report, chalking it up to an effort to thwart his efforts to strengthen Israel’s ties with the Arab world. “It’s unfortunate that time and again my image as a representative of the Israeli government is tarnished, where I strive to advance peace between Israel and the Arab world,” he said in a statement.

He also said the encounter was brief, and that he shook hands briefly with numerous individuals at the ceremony.

Tweeting from the ceremony in Ecuador, Kara said at the time that he was “surprised by the warm attitude of representatives from the Gulf states,” crediting Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel as a game changer.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, second from right, at the inauguration ceremony of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, second from right, at the inauguration ceremony of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Trump has been trying to push for an alliance of the Sunni states, together with the US and Israel to counter Iran. He is pushing Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace deal, which he says would also facilitate a wider peace between Israel and the Gulf nations.

“President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are coordinating every step of this political initiative, and there is progress on the issue,” Kara said.

The incident is not the first time Kara has has caused controversy over apprently unsanctioned comments and actions.

In February, Kara was ridiculed for saying that Israel would soon be able to deploy terminator robots — indestructible because they would be built of “special material” — that would be able to enter enemy territory and kill the leaders of terror groups targeting Israel without putting soldiers in harm’s way.

In November, Kara posted to his Facebook page details of a security-related incident involving the Jewish state, all elements of which are still under a gag order. The post was quickly taken down, but not before journalists and others saw the information.

A month earlier Kara drew condemnation from the Foreign Ministry when, during a visit to Italy, he suggested that powerful earthquakes in that country were divine retribution for anti-Israel actions in the United Nations.

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