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Israel's foreign minister inaugurates diplomatic office in Morocco

Yair Lapid said the two countries agreed to establish full embassies in the coming months
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid inaugurates Israel's diplomatic mission in Rabat (Reuters)

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

Yair 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 US-brokered "Abraham Accords".

Lapid tweeted photos of himself on Thursday formally opening the Israeli liaison office in Rabat, the capital, alongside Morocco's Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Mohcine Jazouli. He was then heading to Casablanca where he was to visit a synagogue, the Temple Beth-El.

The foreign minister also said that the two countries agreed to move towards full normalisation, and will upgrade to opening embassies in the coming months.

On Wednesday, Lapid met 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. Last month, Israeli airlines began direct commercial flights from Israel to Morocco. 

They also signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a political consultation mechanism between their countries’ foreign ministries.

In a tweet on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated the two countries "on the reopening of the Israeli Liaison Office in Rabat", adding that Washington "will continue to work with Israel and Morocco to strengthen all aspects of our partnerships".

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Morocco is one of the four Middle East and North African countries, along with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, that normalised relations with Israel in 2020.

The deals shook up the region by upending the long-held belief that Israel could not normalise relations with the broader Arab world without progress in resolving its decades-old conflict with the Palestinians. The Palestinians have rejected the agreements, calling them a "betrayal".

Rabat's decision to normalise relations with Israel came after then-US President Donald Trump recognised Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed and divided former Spanish colony. 

Despite having previously had no official diplomatic ties since Israel's creation in 1948, Morocco and Israel have had low-level ties and shared intelligence.

They began limited ties in 1993, after the latter reached a peace agreement with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as part of the Oslo Accords. But Rabat suspended relations with Israel after the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

The North African country is home to the Arab world's largest Jewish community, which consists of 2-3,000 people. Meanwhile, 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin currently live in Israel.