Israel affirms Morocco’s claim over Western territory
The Israeli government announced Monday that it was recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, joining the United States in acknowledging the kingdom’s annexation of the disputed territory.
In a statement, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said King Mohammed VI received a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognizing Morocco’s claim to the territory.
The announcement was later confirmed by Netanyahu’s office. According to Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, the recognition of Western Sahara as Moroccan territory will enhance bilateral relations and promote regional stability.
Following the “Abraham Accords” brokered by former President Donald Trump between Israel and Arab states, Israel and Morocco reestablished diplomatic relations. During the 1990s, the two countries had low-level diplomatic ties, which were disrupted by the Palestinian uprising in 2000.
Morocco’s normalization of relations with Israel was exchanged for recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara by the Trump administration in December 2020.
It upset decades of U.S. policy and international consensus that Western Sahara’s status should be decided by a United Nations election.
The Moroccan government annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony with substantial offshore oil deposits and mineral resources, in 1975, sparking a conflict with the Polisario Front.
A United Nations peacekeeping mission mediated a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor the truce and help prepare a referendum on the future of the territory. A vote has been prevented due to disagreements over eligibility.
In 2020, the Polisario Front reopened the armed conflict after 29 years of ceasefire.
Morocco’s neighbor Algeria broke diplomatic ties with Rabat in 2021 due to mounting tensions. Both nations share allies in the West, the Middle East, and elsewhere, but enmity has escalated between them.