Israeli top diplomat makes first visit to Morocco since normalization

Five weeks ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had made a landmark visit to the UAE.

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On Wednesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrived in Morocco for what is the first visit by Israel’s top diplomat since the two countries advanced relations last year.

Israel and Morocco agreed in December of last year to restart diplomatic relations and re-launch direct flights under a deal brokered by former US President Donald Trump, in which Washington also recognized Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara dispute.

Along with a ministerial delegation, Lapid will inaugurate Israel’s diplomatic mission in Rabat and hold talks with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, Lapid’s office said, the latter of which he has conducted on his arrival.

Morocco was one of four Arab countries along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan to move toward normalizing ties with Israel last year under US-brokered deals.

The diplomatic moves angered Palestinians who have long relied on Arab support in their quest for statehood against Israeli occupation.

US President Joe Biden has said he wants to build on Israel’s new relations, which Lapid has prioritized since taking office in June as part of a cross-partisan coalition that replaced longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Just five weeks ago, Lapid made a landmark first visit by an Israeli foreign minister to the UAE, where he affirmed Israel’s ties with the Gulf Arab state and highlighted concerns over their mutual foe Iran. Two Israeli companies have launched nonstop commercial flights to Marrakesh from Tel Aviv last month, but hopes for broader tourism have been delayed by a spike of COVID-19 cases in both countries.

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