Morocco-Israel normalisation deal: how they reacted
Outgoing President Donald Trump's double announcement of a normalisation of ties between Morocco and Israel and U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara has prompted mixed reactions.
After the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, Morocco is the fourth Arab country since August to commit to establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco's control, where tensions with the pro-independence Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.
In a statement by the royal palace, Morocco's King Mohammed VI confirmed his country would "resume official contacts.... and diplomatic relations with minimal delay" with Israel, two decades after the two countries closed liaison offices.
He said these "measures do not in any manner affect Morocco's ongoing and sustained commitment" to the Palestinian cause, reiterating Rabat's commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also "sent his sincere thanks to the U.S. president" for his decision to recognise Rabat's sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the normalisation agreement as "historic" and anticipated direct flights between his country and Morocco soon. "We will resume liaison offices quickly between Israel and Morocco and work as rapidly as possible to establish full diplomatic relations," he said.
Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, described the Israeli-Moroccan normalisation as "a political sin that does not serve the Palestinian cause and encourages the occupation to continue to deny the rights of our people". There was no immediate direct reaction from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi hailed the normalisation as "an important step to achieve more stability and cooperation in our region."
The Conflict in Western Sahara – The Eternal Wait
For almost 50 years, the Sahrawi people have been waiting for a referendum that would give them the opportunity to decide for themselves over their future and their homeland, the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara. When Spain pulled out of the territory in 1976, the odds for Western Saharan independence looked good, until Morocco laid claim to the land and occupied two thirds of the territory, which it still holds today.
In an attempt to escape the Moroccan army, many Sahrawi fled over the border to Algeria, where they established refugee camps outside the city of Tindouf. They have since been waiting nearly forty years to return home. Laura Overmeyer visited the camps.
No movement in the Western Sahara conflict
Annexation and expulsion
Africa's "last colony"
A state for the desert people
Morocco's wall of land mines
Nostalgia for names
Making life possible
Coping with everyday life
An agonizing choice
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said her country "rejoiced" at the news of the normalisation, as it did with news of the other three recent deals between Israel and Arab states.
Gonzalez Laya said Spain's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the dispute over Western Sahara was "clear", pointing to Madrid's "respect for UN resolutions as a means of resolving" these matters.
The Polisario Front independence movement condemned "in the strongest terms the fact that outgoing American President Donald Trump attributes to Morocco something which does not belong" to the country, namely sovereignty over Western Sahara.
The United Nations said its position was "unchanged" on the disputed region, in the wake of the U.S. move. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believed "the solution to the question can still be found based on Security Council resolutions," his spokesman said. (AFP)