Middle East

Defense Minister Gantz to visit Morroco next week

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will make an official visit to Morroco next week where he is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the north African kingdom.

During the visit, Gantz will meet with his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi and will sign an MOU that will outline defense cooperation between the two countries. 

According to foreign reports, Gantz and Loudiyi will sign defense cooperation deals including plans to develop a domestic industry to produce loitering munitions. 

According to Defense News and French publication Africa Intelligence, the two countries are currently working on the development of a project to manufacture the drones to strengthen Morocco’s air power.
The report by Africa Intelligence said that defense giant Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)’s subsidiary BlueBird Aerosystems has been negotiating with Moroccan teams for several months about developing a business incubator to manufacture such drones. 

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Minister-Delegate for the Administration of National Defense Abdellatif Loudiyi sign a US-Morocco defense cooperation road map, Rabat, Morocco, Oct. 2, 2020. (credit: LISA FERDINANDO/FLICKR)

Rabat, the report said, became interested in the use of loitering munitions after IAI “highlighted” in a sales pitch the extensive use of the company’s Harop suicide drones by Azerbaijan during the two-month war with Armenia last year.

The Harop is a small drone which according to the company’s website is a combination of the “capabilities of a UAV and a lethal missile.” 

Israel and Morocco have had close economic, diplomatic, and military ties for years and in December the two countries signed a normalization agreement. According to a report in Haaretz, military ties between Israel and Morocco primarily involve intelligence cooperation and trade in arms.

According to another report, Israel sold Morocco other military systems, including military communications and control systems (such as radar systems for fighter jets) via a third party.

Jerusalem and Rabat reestablished ties under the Abraham Accords along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan. 

In June, a Moroccan C-130 landed in Israel to take part in an international drill. It was the first time that an airforce platform belonging to the north African country landed in the Jewish State. In January of last year, the Moroccan army received three Israeli reconnaissance drones in a deal worth some $48 million. The deal between the two countries was signed in 2014 and closed via the French company Dassault. 

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Morocco in August and inaugurated the country’s mission in Rabat. During his two-day visit, Lapid met with his counterpart Nasser Bourita and handed him an invitation from President Isaac Herzog for King Mohammed VI to visit Israel.

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