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Israel reiterates Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara after PM mishap

By AFP

May 31, 2024 07:23 PM


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Israel reiterated on Friday its recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu produced a map showing the territory as independent during an interview.

Netanyahu pointed at a map of the Middle East and North Africa as he discussed regional threats to Israel amid its ongoing war against Iran-backed Hamas militants in Gaza, during a recorded interview with French news channel LCI that aired Thursday.

"Look at the map of the Arab world in green" surrounding tiny Israel, Netanyahu said while pointing at the map, which showed the Western Sahara as a separate territory from Morocco.

Netanyahu's office issued a statement in Arabic on Friday saying that under his leadership "Israel officially recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in 2023".

"Israel's policy remains steadfast and unchanged," it said.

Israel recognised Morocco's sovereignty over the mineral-rich region in July 2023 in a letter from Netanyahu to Morocco's King Mohammed VI, following US-brokered normalisation in 2020.

The United States has also recognised the territory as a part of the North African kingdom in return for Rabat establishing ties with Israel.

The Western Sahara dispute dates back to 1975, when colonial ruler Spain withdrew from the territory, sparking a 15-year war between Morocco and the separatist Algeria-backed Polisario Front.

Rabat controls nearly 80 percent of Western Sahara and sees the entire region, home to abundant phosphates and fisheries, as its sovereign territory.

Morocco and Israel normalised relations in December 2020 as part of a series of similar US-backed deals with Arab states known as the Abraham Accords.


AFP


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