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Morocco Agrees To Join Trump Administration's Abraham Accords

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Another Arab country has decided to join the Trump administration's Abraham Accords. Under the deal, Morocco will normalize ties with Israel. In return, the U.S. is backing Morocco's bid for sovereignty over a disputed territory. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Israel and Morocco have already had informal ties for years. But now, in a tweet, President Trump says they've agreed to full diplomatic relations. His son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner expects things to move quickly.

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JARED KUSHNER: They will grant overflights and direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis. They'll reopen the liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open the embassies, you know, in the near future.

KELEMEN: For its part, the U.S. is changing its policy toward Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. In the past, the U.S. has worked with the United Nations to promote talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for Western Sahara. Kushner says the U.S. now recognizes Morocco's sovereignty over the disputed region.

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KUSHNER: This is something that's been talked about for a long time but something that seemed inevitable at this point.

KELEMEN: A statement from the Polisario Front questioned whether the move by the U.S. violates international law and said Morocco is, quote, "selling its soul to maintain its illegal occupation." Trump's move also took the U.N. by surprise.

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STEPHANE DUJARRIC: We've just learned of this through a Twitter post.

KELEMEN: U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says the secretary-general is still convinced that it's possible to reach a negotiated solution based on U.N. resolutions. One former U.N. and U.S. diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, says the U.S. was already leaning toward Morocco's plan to offer some autonomy but not independence for the people of Western Sahara.

JEFFREY FELTMAN: While previous administrations have never come out fully in support of Morocco, there's been kind of a wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The Moroccan economy plan looks pretty good as a basis for how you would negotiate a permanent settlement.

KELEMEN: But he fears that President Trump's move will short-circuit diplomacy, leaving the Sahrawi people weaker, as he's done with others.

FELTMAN: He hasn't shown much empathy for weaker parties, whether we're talking about the Kurds in Syria or the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza or now the Sahrawis.

KELEMEN: Palestinians are sounding frustrated, too, as more Arab countries agree to normalize ties with Israel before Palestinians get statehood.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOUND TRIBE SECTOR 9'S "TOKYO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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