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The New Arab Staff

US negotiating Morocco drone sale following Israel deal: report

The sale needs to pass through Congress first [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 December, 2020

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The US is negotiating the sale of drones to Morocco, unnamed government sources say.

The US has started negotiating the sale of at least four sophisticated large aerial drones to Morocco, less than a day after normalisation with Israel, US sources say.

Three American sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters a deal may be underway and the deal is expected to be discussed the with members of Congress in the coming days.

While the State Department has authorised the sale of the drones, it is unknown if the US officials have approved exporting the drones with weapons attached, two of the sources said. 

The deal needs to be approved by members of Congress, who may receive notification as soon as Friday, one source said. Congress could block a final agreement but it is unlikely they do so.

The four MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones made by General Atomics have a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km) and could survey huge swaths of sea and desert.

A deal with Morocco would be among the first sales of drones after US President Donald Trump’s administration moved ahead with its plan to sell more drones to more countries by reinterpreting an international arms control agreement called the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Following the Trump administration’s reinterpretation of the MTCR, US Senators introduced legislation that would block the export, transfer or trade of many advanced drones to countries that are not close US allies. Sales would be allowed to NATO members, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Israel.

The officials were unable to confirm if the move was directly related to normalisation.

Morocco confirmed on Thursday it would resume diplomatic relations with Israel "with minimal delay."

Following a telephone call between US President Donald Trump and King Mohammed VI, the Moroccan ruler said his country would "resume official contacts.... and diplomatic relations with minimal delay" with Israel, according to a statement by the royal palace.

He also announced that Rabat would also develop technological and trade ties with Tel Aviv, as well as allow direct flights between the two countries.

Morocco and Israel had respectively maintained liaison offices in their respective capitals in the 1990s, before closing them in 2000.

After the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, Morocco is the fourth Arab state since August to commit to establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. 

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