Israel, Morocco Agree to Upgrade Diplomatic Ties, Lapid Announces in Rabat Visit

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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita sign cooperation agreements between the two countries, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita sign cooperation agreements between the two countries, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday.Credit: Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP Photo

Israel's foreign minister announced on Thursday he has agreed with his Moroccan counterpart to upgrade diplomatic ties between the two countries.

At the inauguration of the Israeli diplomatic representation in Morocco, a symbol of the normalization of the relations between the two nations, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that within two months the two countries will open embassies, rather than liaison offices.

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Abdelaziz Aftati, a senior leader of Morocco's co-ruling Islamist PJD party in Morocco, condemned the move to open embassies, saying: "We will spare no effort to counter the Zionist project."

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 U.S.-brokered “Abraham Accords.”

Lapid tweeted pictures of him formally opening the Israeli liaison office in Rabat, the capital, alongside the Morocco's Foreign Affairs Deputy 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 with 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.

U.S. 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 traveling to Morocco each year.

The Abraham Accords were struck last year with four Arab states: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, but formal ties were never established with Sudan.

They shook up the region by upending the long-held belief that Israel could not normalize 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 United States agreed to recognize 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 recognized by the United Nations.

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