Morocco’s monarch Mohammed VI is to avoid an upcoming summit of African leaders as it is also to be joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The meeting of the intergovernmental body of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is to take place in Liberia on Sunday, The Jerusalem Post reported on Saturday.
The king, whose country does not have diplomatic ties with Israel, had originally accepted an invite to the summit, but had second thoughts after finding out about the unwonted invitation forwarded to the Israeli premier.
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the king “wants his first presence at an ECOWAS summit not to take place in a context of tension and controversy, and wants to avoid any confusion.”
“Over the last few days, key ECOWAS member states have decided to reduce their level of representation at the summit due to their disagreement with the invitation handed to the Israeli prime minister. Other member states also expressed their astonishment at this invitation,” it added.
The meeting will be gathering 15 African nations, two other among which, namely Niger and Mali, do not have diplomatic relations with Israel either.
Netanyahu, who is heading for Liberia at the head of a high-ranking political mission, is also expected to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit with the leaders of Liberia, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire.
The Israeli premier went on a tour of Africa
last year, and is to attend another summit in Togo in October, as Tel Aviv tries to befriend the continent.
The Liberia event is expected to feature signing of a cooperation agreement and two memoranda of understanding between Tel Aviv and ECOWAS.
File photo of an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit
Like Morocco, most Arab governments have no diplomatic ties with the Israeli regime, seeking to portray themselves as the traditional adversaries of Tel Aviv and the upholders of the Palestinian cause.
Even so, reports have indicated that several of them, including Saudi Arabia, have had secret relations with Tel Aviv.
In November 2015, The Associated Press reported that Israel was set to open a “permanent mission” in the United Arab Emirates, which it said was to operate as part of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in the Emirati capital.
In May 2016, the Middle East Eye news
and analysis portal reported that Israel and some Arab countries, including the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, were planning to overthrow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and replace him with a former leader of the Fatah movement. The UAE has already held talks with Tel Aviv about the initiative, it said.
Last month, US President Donald Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia, and then Israel on his first state visit. During the first trip, Trump signed a $110-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
In both places, he delivered impassioned speeches focusing on Washington, Riyadh and Tel Aviv’s common antagonism towards Iran as he was trying to rally more regional support behind the cause.