Top IDF brass meet Morocco army chief in Rabat, agree on military cooperation

In 1st official visit, officer charged with Iran file, head of intelligence operations and international cooperation commander meet Belkhir El Farouk to discuss ‘mutual interests’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Tal Kelman, left, head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Directorate, meets with Belkhir El Farouk, Inspector General of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in Rabat, March 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Tal Kelman, left, head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Directorate, meets with Belkhir El Farouk, Inspector General of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in Rabat, March 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Senior Israeli military officials wrapped up a first official trip to Morocco this week, which included meetings with the chief of the Moroccan military, Belkhir El Farouk, the Israel Defense Forces announced Friday.

Tal Kelman, the military official in charge of Iran affairs, along with Effie Defrin, the military’s international cooperation commander, and Brigadier General G. (who can only be identified by his rank and first Hebrew initial), the Intelligence Directorate’s Operations Division commander, met with El Farouk in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

The officers also met with other senior Moroccan military officials, including the head of the country’s intelligence division and the head of the operations division.

“The officials discussed the historical and cultural connection between the countries and mutual interests in the Middle East, and expressed their desire to promote extensive military cooperation,” the IDF said in a statement.

An accord was signed during the meetings which aims to have the two militaries collaborate, the IDF said.

“Opportunities for military collaborations were discussed, both training and in the operational and intelligence areas,” the military said.

The unit Kelman commands, the IDF’s Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate, focuses principally on Israel’s fight against Iran. Last week, Kelman, the deputy IDF chief and other officials held talks with US defense officials at the Pentagon.

The Rabat meeting came as state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, the nation’s largest aerospace and defense company, signed a memorandum of understanding with Morocco’s industry minister, also in the Moroccan capital, on Wednesday.

(Right to Left) IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy, Morocco’s Minister of Industry and Trade Ryad Mezzour, and Chairman of the IAI Board of Directors Amir Peretz, during a meeting in Morocco, March 23, 2022. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

The agreement is “an additional step in creating a new partnership between IAI and the aviation and space industries in Morocco,” Amir Peretz, the Moroccan-born IAI board chairman, and former Israeli defense minister, said in a statement.

“Together, we will build joint teams that will turn our vision into reality. Today, I am filled with pride that my country, Israel, is coming together with the country I was born in, Morocco,” Peretz said.

IAI’s president and CEO, Boaz Levy, said the MOU is “another expression of the deep partnership between the two countries and will help promote joint and commercial projects in the aviation industry.”

The “strategic partnership” would also involve the establishment of a research and engineering center, according to the statement, and follows a joint declaration signed in December 2020 on expanding cooperation in investment and technology.

Moroccan Industry and Trade Minister Ryad Mezzour said in the statement that the agreement “responds to national priorities to promote advanced training, employment, local manufacturing, as well as R&D and innovation.”

Rabat normalized ties with the Jewish state in December 2020, shortly after similar agreements with the UAE and Bahrain.

Several high-level Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Economy Minister Orna Barbivai, have since visited Morocco and signed cooperation agreements including in technology, security, the military and trade.

Israel is home to some 700,000 Jews of Moroccan descent.

AFP contributed to this report.

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