HM King Mohammed VI of Morocco – Picture by Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India
Friday, 15 January 2020, Washington D.C., USA: outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco the ‘Legion of Merit’ in the degree of Chief Commander for his “positive influence” on the political scene in the Middle East, referring in particular to the normalization of relations with Israel.
Trump, who sees the normalization of a number of Arab countries to their relations with Israel as a major achievement in presidential foreign policy. President Trump broke decades of diplomacy in December2020 by recognizing the full sovereignty of Morocco over the disputed Western Sahara, while Morocco pledged to normalize relations with the State of Israel.
The White House presented King Mohammed VI with the Order of Merit at a private ceremony in the Oval Office attended by the Moroccan ambassador to the USA, HH Sharifa Lalla Joumala Al Alaoui. The bestowal is a reciprocity after Sharifa Lalla Joumala presented President Donald Trump with the ‘Order of Mohammed’, also known as the Order of Sovereignty, which is the Sharifian kingdom’s highest award, normally reserved for heads of state and high ranking members of royal and ruling houses.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East Envoy Avi Berkowitz received other awards for their work on the Israel-Morocco deal, which was reached in December. The Legion of Merit is a military award created to honour the Allied leaders in World War II, and was dormant until Trump revived it. Trump awarded the medal last month to the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan as well, and earlier in September 2020 to the late Emir of Kuwait, Sabah IV.
President-elect Joe Biden has not promised to retain Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara, an erstwhile Spanish colony, which has been in tension since the 1970s as the Front for the Liberation of Sakia El Hamra and the Valley of Gold (Polisario) demand the territory’s independence. Morocco controls most of Western Sahara, but the United Nations does not recognise its sovereignty over it.
For further information
White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-awarding-legion-merit-degree-chief-commander-majesty-mohammed-vi-king-morocco/
Moroccan Foreign Ministry (US to open consulate in Western Sahara region): https://www.diplomatie.ma/fr/washington-annonce-le-début-du-processus-d’ouverture-d’un-consulat-des-etats-unis-à-dakhla
Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco in Washington, D.C.: https://www.embassyofmorocco.us