Normalisation with Israel ‘not on agenda’, says Tunisian PM

Hichem Mechichi says his country respects Morocco’s recent choice to establish diplomatic relations with Israel but will not follow suit.

In his comments, Mechichi said he had not been approached by the Trump administration about the issue [File: Geoffroy Van Der Haselt/AFP]

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi says his country has no intention of following in Morocco’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel.

In an interview with broadcaster France 24 on Monday, Mechichi said: “For Tunisia, the question is not on the agenda,” but insisted it nevertheless respected the kingdom’s choice.

“Every country has its own reality, its own truth and its own diplomacy, which it considers best for its people,” Mechichi said. “We respect Morocco’s choice, Morocco is a sister country that we love very much.”

Morocco last week became the fourth Arab state this year, after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, to agree to normalise relations with Israel.

US President Donald Trump, in turn, backed Morocco’s contested sovereignty over Western Sahara, where the kingdom has fought as a secessionist movement since 1975 when Spain withdrew from the territory.

Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories, a stance also taken by the African Union, the International Court of Justice, as well as the European Union.

The announcement was met with a mixed reaction in Morocco where authorities have allowed gatherings in support of the agreement but banned smaller demonstrations denouncing the deal.

Abdessamad Fathi, president of the Moroccan Instance for the Support of Ummah Affairs, a group affiliated with the outlawed Al Adl Wal Ihsane movement, said on Facebook that authorities’ decision to ban sit-in is an indication that normalizing relations with Israel is “imposed on Moroccans” after authorities disperse demonstrators outside parliament on Monday.

In his comments, Mechichi said he had not been approached by the Trump administration about the issue.

Neighbouring Algeria took a less charitable view of the deal struck with archrival Morocco.

Algeria, which backs the Polisario Front independence movement in Western Sahara, said the move was part of “foreign manoeuvres which aim to destabilise” it.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies