News of today’s historic announcement of normalization between Israel and Morocco brokered by the Trump administration – its fourth such deal with a Muslim nation in the last four months – was met with a lukewarm reaction by the United Nations and diplomats at the world body’s headquarters.
Speaking at his daily briefing, the U.N. secretary general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, who said he had only just learned of the announcement, responded to a reporter’s question by noting that he hoped, “This can also lead to positive developments in issues in the Middle East, notably between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Reaction from U.N. diplomats seemed mostly muted on a day when the U.N. seemed more concerned with condemning Israel in the General Assembly than it seemed to be with the historic announcement made by President Trump and his team. According to U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO that monitors the international agency, the world body was due to adopt half a dozen resolutions that condemn or single out Israel later today.
The normalization was first announced by President Trump in a tweet noted that, “Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! 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!”
Trump also revealed that the U.S. had recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. When Spain left the territory in the ’70s, it was annexed by Morocco and then followed a bloody guerilla war launched by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front that sought independence.
But since 1991, a U.N.-brokered truce has largely held in place, although just last month, following a Moroccan military operation to clear a road that had been blockaded for weeks by supporters of the Polisario Front, tensions between the two sides have risen.
Morocco, like other Arab states who already have or are said to be calculating normalization with Israel, sees Iran as a problematic player in the region. In 2018, Morocco’s foreign minister told Fox News that his country’s intelligence service had discovered that Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah was supplying Polisario rebels with arms including surface-to-air missiles, leading to Morocco’s cutting ties with Tehran in 2018.
When asked by reporters about the U.S. decision to recognize the Western Sahara, Dujarric said that United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ position remained unchanged, noting, “He remains convinced that a solution to the question of Western Sahara is possible, and that’s in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.”
Benny Avni, a U.N.-based columnist specializing in foreign affairs, told Fox News in an email that the U.S. should have recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara long ago.
He wrote, “The dispute over the territory is a remnant of the Cold War and part of neighboring Algeria’s competition with Rabat. The referendum idea has hopelessly been stuck for a long time over the question of who’d participate. New ideas, including partial autonomy, are now possible as the reality on the ground is recognized.”
In a telephone call today, Israel’s United Nations Ambassador Gilad Erdan congratulated his Moroccan counterpart, Ambassador Omar Hilale. A statement released by the Israeli mission said the two diplomats had a very warm conversation with Erdan calling the announcement, “a true miracle, happening on the eve of Hanukkah.”
Erdan thanked the Trump administration and his own Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for, “building a better future for our children and the world.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.