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Israel to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over W.Sahara soon -official

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RABAT (Reuters) – Israel will soon announce its support for Morocco’s claim of sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region, Israeli parliament speaker Amir Ohana said on Thursday during a visit to Rabat.

The Algerian-backed Polisario Front demands an independent state in Western Sahara. In 2020, then-U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Morocco’s claim to the territory in return for its partial upgrade of relations with Israel.

“I am fully aware of the importance of the recognition of the Moroccan Sahara … Israel should move towards the goal of recognising the Moroccan Sahara just as our closest ally the U.S. did,” Ohana told reporters after talks with his Moroccan counterpart.

“There are currently serious discussions between our governments on that matter and I believe that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu will be announcing this decision in the near future,” he said.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Israel was considering backing Morocco on Western Sahara and that the issue was being discussed within the Israeli National Security Council (NSC).

Morocco’s conflict with the Polisario was frozen in 1991 with a U.N.-backed ceasefire that included a plan for a referendum to resolve the territory’s status.

But rules for the referendum were never agreed and the U.N. Security Council stopped referring to it as an option in its resolutions, instead calling on parties to show compromise and work towards a “mutually acceptable solution”.

A diplomatic source told Reuters that Israeli recognition of Moroccan rule over Western Sahara could lead to a full upgrade of Israeli-Moroccan ties. This would entail the countries’ respective missions, now designated as liaison offices, becoming embassies with a free-trade pact possible down the line.

Winning support for its stand on Western Sahara is the ultimate goal of Moroccan diplomacy, which was boosted by Trump’s recognition and the ensuing support of Western powers, such as former colonial power Spain, for Rabat’s plan of autonomy for the territory.

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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