Morocco and Israel sign defence MOU in Rabat, Israeli spokesperson says

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Morocco and Israel signed a defence memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Rabat on Wednesday, opening the way for possible military sales and cooperation after the countries upgraded diplomatic ties last year.

A source briefed on the classified MoU said it does not stipulate specific defence deals, but rather provides a legal and regulatory framework for such agreements in the future.

In Rabat, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz signed the document along with Abdellatif Loudiyi, Morocco’s defence administration minister, an Israeli defence spokesperson said.

“This is very significant, and it will allow us to exchange ideas, enter into joint projects and enable Israeli exports (to Morocco)” Gantz said in a video clip posted on his Twitter account after he met Loudiyi.

Morocco was one of four Arab countries – along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – to normalise relations with Israel last year under U.S.-engineered accords.

Departing for Rabat on Tuesday, Gantz told reporters he was embarking on “the first formal visit” by an Israeli defence minister to Morocco – implicit acknowledgement of discreet relations dating back decades.

In a statement, the Israeli defence spokesperson said the MoU would enable the two countries “to enjoy increased cooperation in the fields of intelligence, industrial collaboration, military training and more”.

There was no immediate comment from Morocco on the document.

Bezhalel Machlis, CEO and president of Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems Ltd, told Reuters on Tuesday that his company saw Morocco as a potential market.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid travelled to Morocco in August for the first visit by Israel’s top diplomat to that country since 2003.

(Reporting by Dan Williams, Ahmed Eljechtimi and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alex Richardson)

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