Israel officially opens diplomatic office in Morocco

By: AFP      Published: 07:22 PM, 12 Aug, 2021
Israel officially opens diplomatic office in Morocco

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

In December 2020, Morocco became the fourth Arab country that year to establish ties with Israel after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

"Historic moment: we have inaugurated the Israeli representation in Morocco during a solemn ceremony," the Jewish state's top diplomat Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter.

The office was opened in a low-key ceremony in the capital Rabat, in the presence of Morocco's minister for African affairs, Mohcine Jazouli.

Lapid also wrote that President Isaac Herzog invited King Mohammed VI to visit Israel, in a letter delivered to his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita.

At the end of 2020 Israel's former premier Benjamin Netanyahu had also invited the monarch to visit, but no official response to the invitation was forthcoming.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Lapid's trip "significant for Israel, Morocco, and the broader region".

"The United States will continue to work with Israel and Morocco to strengthen all aspects of our partnerships and create a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous future for all the people of the Middle East," Blinken said in a statement.

The American embassy in Rabat said ties between the two countries generated "real benefits" for both sides, including direct commercial flights and economic cooperation.

Lapid also tweeted on Thursday that a mezuzah -- a case containing a parchment with passages from the Torah -- was hung at the entrance to Israel's new diplomatic office.

On Wednesday, the two countries signed accords on political consultations, aviation and culture.

Lapid was in Morocco's commercial capital Casablanca on Wednesday to visit the Beth-El synagogue before later flying home.

Morocco hosts the Arab world's largest Jewish community of some 3,000 people, the remnant of a once much larger community. Some 700,000 Jews of Moroccan descent live in Israel.

Morocco and Israel maintained liaison offices in the 1990s, before closing them during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, that raged from 2000 to 2005.

Foreign Minister Bourita on Wednesday raised the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Lapid and underlined the need for new negotiations to reach "a solution based on two states living side by side on the 1967 borders".

Last year's normalisation of relations with Israel by the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan was seen by Palestinians as a betrayal of their cause.

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