Pompeo visits Morocco in first since Trump election

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) during his visit to Rabat on December 5, 2019. (AFP)
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, accompanied by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, walk to meet the media before a private meeting at the Foreign Minestry in Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (AP)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcomed by Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) during the his visit to Rabat on December 5, 2019. (AFP)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcomed by Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) during the his visit to Rabat on December 5, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2019

Pompeo visits Morocco in first since Trump election

  • Pompeo Moroccan met Interior Minister Abdellatif Hammouchi to discuss counter-terrorism efforts
  • The king of Morocco last month called for an end to “the policy of colonization in the occupied Palestinian territories” and reiterated his support for a two-state solution

RABAT: Top US diplomat Mike Pompeo visited Morocco on Thursday, the highest-ranking American official to travel there since the election of President Donald Trump.
Pompeo met his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita to discuss the “threat” posed by Iran’s attempts to “broaden its regional influence,” as well as the conflicts in Libya and unrest across the Sahel region, Bourita said in a statement.
The State Department has called Morocco an “essential partner” in Washington’s broader diplomatic strategy, which includes normalization of ties between Arab countries and Israel.
The visit followed Israeli media reports that the country’s officials were hoping for a “breakthrough” in normalizing ties with the North African country in the coming days.
Neither Pompeo nor Moroccan officials made any public mention of such efforts during his visit.
Egypt and Jordan remain the only Arab countries to have peace treaties and formal diplomatic ties with Israel.
“We have a great relationship between our two countries,” Pompeo said, as he began his meetings in Rabat. “We make our people safer in each of our two countries.”
The trip comes after Pompeo announced last month that the United States no longer considered Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be illegal.
The decision broke with decades of international consensus that the settlements are illegal and a major barrier to peace with the Palestinians.
The king of Morocco last month called for an end to “the policy of colonization in the occupied Palestinian territories” and reiterated his support for a two-state solution.
On Wednesday, Pompeo met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Portugal in talks dominated by policy on their arch-enemy Iran.
Pompeo said they “discussed efforts to counter Iran’s destabilising influence in the region, the importance of economic cooperation with regional partners and other issues related to Israel’s security.”
The US Secretary of State’s program was to include an audience with King Mohammed VI, but eventually the meeting was dropped, apparently due to Pompeo’s extended stay in Lisbon.
He did however meet Moroccan Interior Minister Abdellatif Hammouchi to discuss counter-terrorism efforts, before leaving for Washington on Thursday evening.


Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

Updated 05 June 2020

Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

  • Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna
  • The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord

TRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government captured the last major stronghold of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar near Tripoli on Friday, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.
Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army, LNA, said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna. They headed toward Sirte, far along the coast, and the air base of Al-Jufra in central Libya. The LNA made no immediate official comment.
The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord, GNA, and allied forces across most of northwest Libya, reversing many of Haftar’s gains from last year when he raced toward Tripoli.
The United Nations has started holding talks with both sides for a cease-fire deal in recent days, though previous truces have not stuck. The GNA gains could entrench the de facto partition of Libya into zones controlled by rival eastern and western governments whose foreign backers compete for regional sway.
Turkish military support for the GNA, with drone strikes, air defenses and a supply of allied Syrian fighters, was key to its recent successes. Ankara regards Libya as crucial to defending its interests in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the LNA still retains its foreign support. Washington said last week Moscow had sent warplanes to LNA-held Jufra, though Russia and the LNA denied this.
The United Nations says weapons and fighters have flooded into the country in defiance of an arms embargo, risking a deadlier escalation. Meanwhile, a blockade of oil ports by eastern-based forces has almost entirely cut off energy revenue and both administrations face a looming financial crisis.
Stronghold

Located in the hills southeast of Tripoli, Tarhouna had functioned as a forward base for Haftar’s assault on the capital. Its swift fall suggests Haftar’s foreign supporters were less willing to sustain his bid to take over the entire country once Turkey intervened decisively to stop him.
The GNA operations room said in a statement that its forces had captured Tarhouna after entering from four sides. Abdelsalam Ahmed, a resident, said GNA forces had entered the town.
Videos and photographs posted online appeared to show GNA forces inside Tarhouna cheering and hugging each other and firing into the air.
“The Libyan government forces are rapidly moving in an organized manner and with armed drones. There could be a solution at the table, but Haftar’s forces are losing ground in every sense,” said a Turkish official.