Normalization With Israel 'Wasn't on the Agenda' of Pompeo's Morocco Visit, U.S. Official Says

Denying media reports, senior State Department official dismissed talk of U.S.-brokered normalization as 'just another Israeli leak'

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Mike Pompeo and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita walk to meet the media before a private meeting in Rabat, December 5, 2019.
Mike Pompeo and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita walk to meet the media before a private meeting in Rabat, December 5, 2019.Credit: Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP

U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo hadn't discussed normalizing ties with Israel during a recent trip to Morocco, a senior U.S. State Department official said Thursday, denying reports that Washington was working to bring Israel and some Arab states closer.

"It wasn't a topic of discussion" during Pompeo's Thursday meetings with Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and Director General of National Security Abdellatif Hammouchi, the official said in a press briefing. "It struck me as just another Israeli leak to the press of their own issue. It was coincident with our trip, but it wasn't on our agenda."

Meanwhile, London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported Thursday that a planned meeting between Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Pompeo was canceled.

The report cites Western diplomatic sources saying that the king nixed the visit when he learned that Pompeo was arriving with a "pressure agenda" to normalize Moroccan-Israeli relations. The Moroccan Foreign Minister did not issue a statement on the King Mohammed's decision.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met Pompeo in Lisbon a day earlier, refused to comment on the issue in a press briefing earlier Thursday. National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat also provided no details, but hinted that some things are better left veiled.

On Tuesday, Israeli Channel 13 News reporter Barak Ravid reported on Axios that President Donald Trump's administration has "encouraged" several Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Morocco, to reach non-belligerence agreements with Israel.

Morocco and Israel have no diplomatic relations, but have been rumored to be moving closer over their opposition to Iran’s influence on the region and through cooperation with the White House on Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.

Representatives of both countries attended a February conference in Warsaw, intended to gather support among Arab states to counter Iranian aggression. Netanyahu spoke at the conference, saying that coming together against a common enemy lays the foundations in Arab public opinion for normalization.