Donald Trump said Morocco and Israel had agreed to “full diplomatic relations” on Thursday, the fourth such deal in the region brokered by the White House.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations — a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!”
Mr Trump’s administration previously announced similar deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, a significant shift in regional relations between Israel and Arab states that threatens to leave the Palestinians with dwindling support.
Top Trump aides Jared Kushner and secretary of state Mike Pompeo have also been putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to normalise ties, but the Gulf kingdom has expressed caution.
Mr Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and top aide on the Middle East, said the US was also recognising Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara, in a break from international norms.
Morocco has controlled most of the disputed desert territory since 1975 when Spain, the occupying power pulled out its forces.
Since then the Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed movement, has been seeking independence for the territory. The UN has been trying to organise a referendum on self-determination, which has been stalled for decades.
US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory will strengthen Morocco’s position. Polisario announced last month that it was abandoning a ceasefire that ended 16 years of fighting with Morocco in 1991.
“This is something that’s been talked about for a long time but it’s something that seems inevitable at this point, it’s something that we think advances the region and helps bring more clarity to where things are going,” Mr Kushner told reporters.
Mr Kushner said Morocco was a “tolerant society” whose leaders had been good to Jewish people in the past, but that “for whatever reason, diplomatic relations did not exist” until now.
Mr Trump took the decision to recognise Western Sahara as Moroccan territory because of strong trading and intelligence ties between the US and Morocco, and because there had been “no progress on a resolution” on the issue, said Mr Kushner.