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Israel 'should recognise' Western Sahara as part of Morocco, says Knesset speaker

Amir Ohana says discussions are underway between the two countries over the disputed region
Morocco's Parliament Speaker Rachid Talbi Alami (R) shakes the hand of Israel's Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (R) in Rabat on June 8, 2023 (AFP)

The speaker of the Israeli Knesset has said his country should recognise the Western Sahara as part of Morocco, three years after Rabat and Tel Aviv signed a normalisation agreement. 

Speaking during a visit to the kingdom, Amir Ohana said Israel should push towards recognising the disputed African region.

"Israel should move toward that goal of recognising the Moroccan Sahara just as our closest ally the United States did...I supported and pushed toward that goal," he said during a news conference in Rabat.

He added that "serious discussions" were underway between the countries on the subject and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "will be announcing his decisions in the near future".

Western Sahara remains one of Africa’s most intractable and longest-running territorial disputes, pitting the Kingdom of Morocco against the Polisario Front, a national liberation movement representing the indigenous Sahrawi people.

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Morocco, which annexed the territory after Spain withdrew from its former colony in 1975, considers the territory its “Southern Provinces”. The Polisario Front has demanded a referendum, but Morocco has rejected this, proposing autonomy instead.

The Polisario fought a war with Morocco from 1975 to 1991 when a ceasefire deal was agreed and the UN deployed a mission - Minurso - to monitor the truce and arrange a referendum that has yet to take place.

Around 175,000 Sahrawi refugees live in camps across the border in Algeria. Rabat accuses its neighbour of arming the movement, a charge Algeria denies.

The US recognised Morocco’s claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat’s normalisation of ties with Israel in 2020. The Biden Administration has not departed from that position.

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