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Trump pushes for last-minute sale of four sophisticated drones to Morocco

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Air Force officer passes in front of a MQ-9 Reaper drone, at the Kandahar air base, Afghanistan January 23, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

US President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration is in talks with Morocco to provide the kingdom with at least four sophisticated large aerial drones, as it just agreed to a rapprochement with Israel, under pressure from Washington.

Citing three US sources familiar with the case, Reuters reported that Washington is close to completing a deal on the sale of at least four unmanned MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones.

The White House is expected to discuss the deal with members of Congress in the coming days, the report said.

The US State Department, the report said, authorized the sale of the drones, but it is not known if the department approved the export of drones with weapons attached.

The deal, which has been in the works for several months, is being negotiated as Morocco agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

Rabat agreed on Thursday to normalize ties with Tel Aviv in a controversial deal brokered under pressure from Washington, on the final days of Trump’s presidency.

Trump used Morocco's Western Sahara claim as a bargaining chip in talks with Morocco to secure the deal.

He agreed to recognize Rabat's sovereignty over the territory, which has long been a source of dispute between Morocco and the indigenous Saharawi people, led by the pro-independence Polisario Front, based in southern Algeria.

The breakaway movement seeks to establish an independent state in the vast desert area.

Morocco, however, has claimed the former Spanish colony as one of its “southern provinces” since 1975.

The African Union recognizes the territory as an independent state.

The Polisario denounced Washington’s recognition of Rabat's claim, saying it was a violation of international law.

The United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991, bringing an end to a 16-year-long insurgency in the region, with the promise of a referendum on independence, which has yet to take place.

Morocco’s ties with Israel along with its purchase of US drones could now fuel instability in the region, experts warn.


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