Morocco’s King Mohammed invites Israel's Netanyahu for visit after Western Sahara move

Monarch sends message of thanks after Prime Minister recognises North African nation's sovereignty over mineral-rich desert region

King Mohammed says the Western Sahara is the priority of Morocco's foreign policy. Reuters
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Morocco's King Mohammed VI has invited Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the North African country.

The invitation came in a message of thanks issued on Wednesday after Israel recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.

“You are welcome to make a visit to Morocco on dates at our mutual best convenience, to be defined through diplomatic channels,” the King wrote.

Mr Netanyahu revealed his decision on the mineral-rich desert region in a letter cited by Rabat's royal office on Monday.

Israeli-Moroccan co-operation on security, trade and tourism is growing.

The meeting “will permit the opening of new possibilities in bilateral relations between Morocco and Israel”, the King said.

He hailed Israel's decision and said the Western Sahara issue was “the national cause of the kingdom and the priority of its foreign policy”.

Morocco administers about 80 per cent of the 266,000-square-kilometre desert region. The remainder of the sparsely-populated area is held by the Algeria-backed self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a breakaway state which is not recognised by the UN.

Rabat's sovereignty over the region is supported by several Arab states, African nations and the US.

Land borders between Algeria and Morocco have been shut since the early 1990s over security concerns.

Earlier this year, King Mohammed invited Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune for talks in Rabat to end the tensions. The King did not attend the first Arab League summit in three years when it was hosted by Algeria last November.

Morocco resumed ties with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords in 2020, encouraged by then-US president Donald Trump, who recognised Rabat's rule over the Western Sahara region.

Updated: July 20, 2023, 8:14 AM