Israeli foreign minister inaugurates diplomatic office in Morocco

Yair Lapid opens liaison office in the capital Rabat as Israel hopes to boost diplomatic and cultural ties with the North African nation.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid inaugurates Israel's diplomatic mission, in the presence of Minister Delegate to the Moroccan Foreign Ministry Mohcine Jazouli, in Rabat, Morocco [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS]

Israel officially opened its diplomatic office in Morocco on Thursday on the sidelines of a visit by its foreign minister after relations with the North African country were normalised last year.

Yair Lapid’s two-day visit is the first to the country by an Israeli minister since 2003. It comes less than a year after Israel and Morocco reached a deal to establish formal ties under the US-brokered “Abraham Accords”.

Lapid tweeted photos of him on Thursday formally opening the Israeli liaison office in Rabat, the capital, alongside Morocco’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Mohcine Jazouli. He was then to head to Casablanca where he was to visit a synagogue, the Temple Beth-El.

On Wednesday, Lapid met his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita and both countries signed an air service agreement and another agreement to cooperate in the fields of culture, sports and youth.

They also signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a political consultation mechanism between their countries’ foreign ministries, which appeared to fit into the wider design of the face-to-face diplomacy during Lapid’s visit.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted on Wednesday that the United States congratulates Morocco and Israel “on the reopening of the Israeli Liaison Office in Rabat. We will continue to work with Israel and Morocco to strengthen all aspects of our partnerships”.

Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco cut them off after the second Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. The two countries maintained informal ties, with thousands of Israelis travelling to Morocco each year.

The Abraham Accords were struck last year with four Arab states: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

They shook up the region by upending the long-held belief that Israel could not normalise relations with the broader Arab world without progress in resolving its decades-old conflict with the Palestinians. The Palestinians have rejected the agreements.

As part of the deal to establish formal ties with Israel, the US agreed to recognise Morocco’s claim over the long-disputed Western Sahara region, though the Biden administration has said it will review that decision. Morocco’s 1975 annexation of Western Sahara is not recognised by the United Nations.

Source: AP