Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives at Morocco's Rabat airport on Wednesday

Lapid arrives in Morocco for visit to boost ties

Centerpiece of foreign minister's face-to-face diplomacy was to be inauguration of Israeli mission in Rabat; top diplomat expected to meet with Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita, sign several agreements to push forward consultation between two nations

Itamar Eichner, Associated Press |
Published: 08.11.21, 15:34
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid kicked off a bid to strengthen Israel's ties with Morocco on Wednesday, nearly a year after the two counties signed an accord to normalize relations.
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  • The centerpiece of Lapid's face-to-face diplomacy was to be the inauguration of Israel's mission in the capital of Rabat, which the Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    שר החוץ יאיר לפיד נוחת במרוקו
    שר החוץ יאיר לפיד נוחת במרוקו
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives at Morocco's Rabat airport on Wednesday
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "We've landed in Morocco," Lapid posted in Hebrew on Twitter on Wednesday, alongside an image of the captain of the flight waving through the cockpit window. "Proud to represent Israel on this historic visit."
    He later posted an image of himself meeting with Moroccan officials with the caption: "Thank you for the warm reception."
    Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, signed three agreements during a ceremony in Rabat.
    The agreements include a memorandum of understanding establishing a political consultation mechanism between the two ministries, an agreement on cooperation in culture, sport and youth, as well as an agreement on direct flights between the two countries.
    "The agreements that we will sign will bring our countries innovation and opportunities," Lapid said during the ceremony. "Today, we are not being good politicians, we are being good parents."
    Bourita told Lapid that their countries' newly upgraded ties would bring economic benefits, and urged him to work towards a two-state solution in Israel's long-running conflict with the Palestinians.
    "Our ties with Israel are unlike any other ties," he told reporte, saying that Morocco's Jewish heritage was a core component of its identity.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    טקס שיתוף פעולה מדיני ישראל מרוקו
    טקס שיתוף פעולה מדיני ישראל מרוקו
    Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita
    (Photo: Reuters)
    But reiterating Morocco's long-standing support for the Palestinians, Bourita said: "There is a need to restore trust between all parties ... and refrain from fuelling tension in order to pave the way for a political solution based on the two-state solution."
    His two-day visit at the head of a delegation of lawmakers and officials was the first to the country by an Israeli minister since 2003, and the first such meeting in Morocco since the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords with four Arab states: Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
    The visit came as Israel showed off other evidence of the accords moving forward. The IDF released a photo of two senior officials, its own Maj. Gen. Tal Kelman and Bahrain's Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, openly shaking hands after an era of less-public relations.
    Israel and Morocco share a long history of formal and informal ties. Many Israelis have lineage that traces back to Morocco, which is still home to a small community of several thousand Jews.
    Lapid, who is slated to become prime minister in 2024 under the coalition agreement, was expected to meet with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita and sign several agreements to push forward consultation between the two nations.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Morocco's King Mohammed VI is seen at Essaouira's 'House of Memory' in January 2020
    Morocco's King Mohammed VI is seen at Essaouira's 'House of Memory' in January 2020
    Morocco's King Mohammed VI is seen at Essaouira's 'House of Memory' in January 2020
    (Photo: AFP)
    “This historic visit is a continuation of the long-standing friendship and deep roots and traditions that the Jewish community in Morocco, and the large community of Israelis with origins in Morocco, have,” Lapid said in a statement ahead of the trip.
    Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco cut them off after the second intifada erupted in 2000.
    The two countries maintained informal ties, with thousands of Israelis traveling to Morocco each year.
    As part of the deal to establish formal ties with Israel, the United States agreed to recognize Morocco's claim over the long-disputed Western Sahara.
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