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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
Israel sees Morocco as mediator
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (middle) with Morocco's Mohamed Benaissa (right)
Relations between the states appear to be thawing
Israel has suggested Morocco could act as a mediator between it and the Palestinians.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom made the announcement on Tuesday during a visit to the country.

"Morocco can be the bridge between the Israelis and the Palestinians and with other countries," he said before talks in the northern city of Tetouan with his Moroccan counterpart, Mohamed Benaissa.

Mr Benaissa urged both sides to the conflict to respect the US-backed roadmap for peace but would not be drawn on the prospect of Rabat restoring diplomatic ties with Israel.

Mr Shalom also met King Mohammed, saying he had had a "very good meeting" which might encourage other Arab states to build ties with Israel.

He was the first Israeli minister to visit Morocco since October 2000, when the two countries closed their respective liaison offices after the beginning of the second Palestinian uprising.

Diplomatic ties

Mr Shalom said it was clear that Morocco wanted to renew ties with his country and "be an active partner in the peace process".

The resumption of actual diplomatic ties, however, was a matter for "professional teams", he added in an interview for Israeli radio.

The Israeli minister arrived on Monday for the two-day visit and was due to give King Mohammed a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The contents of the message have not been divulged.

Israel's relations with Morocco have traditionally been warmer than with almost any other Arab country.

A BBC correspondent in Rabat says the recent relaunch of the Middle East peace process with the roadmap has given both countries an opportunity to repair relations.

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