Normalization with Israel «was not a topic of discussion» in Morocco, US senior official says

Normalization with Israel was not among the topics discussed, Thursday, in Morocco by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a US senior official said. His comments came respond to presistent reports suggesting that Israel is «close to establishing official ties with Rabat».

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US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Morocco's Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita, Thursday, in Rabat. / DR

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo did not discuss normalization with Israel when visiting Morocco this week, a senior State Department official stressed.

Quoted by Israeli media, the American official stressed that, contrary to «persistent» reports in Israel about a breakthrough in normalizing ties with Rabat, the issue was not part of Pompeo’s agenda.

«It was not a topic of discussion», the same official told reporters, Thursday, during a press briefing. «It struck me as just another Israeli leak to the press of their own issue. But it was coincident with our trip, but it wasn’t on our agenda», the US official added.

Indeed, Mike Pompeo’s trip to Morocco followed a stopover in Portugal. Wednesday in Lisbon, the US State Secretary held talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was «hoping to score a real diplomatic accomplishment», The Time of Israel reports.

Pompeo's visit and reports on normalization

However, in Morocco, the American senior official held talks with Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, Prime Minister Saad El Othmani and the General Director of National Security Abdellatif El Hammouchi. During these meetings many issues were discussed, including «the influence of Hizballah and of Iran in the region», security cooperation and business, the same senior official said in Thursday's press briefing.

His comments come as many anynomous sources within the Department of State told reports earlier this week that Pompeo’s Morocco visit will also focus on «normalization with Israel». «Morocco plays a great role across the region as an important partner in promoting tolerance (and) has these quiet ties and relationship with Israel as well», a State Department official, who requested anonymity told AFP last week.

Reports also suggested that the Jewish state is «hoping to present a real diplomatic accomplishment in the few days» with Morocco. However, Benjamin Netanyahu refused to comment on the issue during a press briefing held in Lisbon after his meeting with Pompeo, Jerusalem Post said Friday.

Meanwhile in Israel, Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz told media that an «Israeli delegation to Washington was promoting a non-belligerence pact with Morocco, UAE, Bahrain and Oman», wrote the same source.

For the record, Morocco first established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1993, following the signing of the Oslo agreement between the Jewish state and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

But with the start of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000, Morocco decided to cut ties with the Jewish state. Three years later, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom visited Rabat and met with King Mohammed VI in Tetouan.

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