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Updated Feb 7, 2020

On Monday, February 3, Axios reported that Morocco, Israel, and the United States have been engaging in back-channel negotiations for more than a year regarding the future of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The deal purportedly would have Morocco normalizing ties with Israel in exchange for the United States recognizing Morocco’s 1975 annexation of Western Sahara, which the United Nations designates as a non-self-governing territory.

Discussions began on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly summit in 2018 between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita. The meeting was the outcome of prior back-channel discussions between Netanyahu’s national security advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and Moroccan businessman Yariv Elbaz, who has close connections with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner.

Around the same time that the deal was being discussed, Morocco began accusing Iran of indirectly supporting the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi political and paramilitary group, based in Algeria, and which styles itself as the representative of the Sahrawi people. Bourita accused Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy militia, and Iran itself of providing missiles and other forms of aid to the Polisario Front, a statement that was echoed by the Trump administration and some members of congress.

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