Morroco’s King Mohammed VI has cancelled his trip to the 51st Ordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia due to the attendance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The country’s foreign affairs ministry said in a late statement on Thursday that the King wants to “avoid any confusion”.
“King Mohammed VI wishes his first presence at an ECOWAS summit not to take place in a context of tension and controversy,” it added.
The ministry also suggested that ECOWAS members have decided to reduce their representation at the summit to the minimum level because of the participation of the invited Israeli Prime Minister.
The King’s visit was expected to push Morocco’s request to join the regional grouping as a full member after a successful bid to rejoin the African Union earlier this year.
Morocco and Israel have an over a decade-old strained relationship which includes its support of the State of Palestine.
Morocco, like several African countries supported Palestine’s observer status at the United Nations in 2012.
The 51st Ordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS commenced in Liberia’s capital Monrovia on Saturday, June 3 and will end Sunday, June 4.
Netanyahu is expected to attend on the second day, Sunday, June 4, and address the 15-state gathering of West African heads of state and delegations.
He will be the first non-African leader to ever address an ECOWAS Summit and also the first Israeli leader to visit West Africa since the 1960s.
Netanyahu had embarked on a four-state East African tour last year to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
He is expected to return to the continent in October for the Africa-Israel summit in Togo where he is expected to meet with the leaders of 25 African countries to discuss multilateral cooperation.