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Arab countries end Israel relations

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (JTA) – Diplomatic relations between three Arab nations and Israel have ceased completely, after the Arab League urged its 22 members to freeze all but formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Following the directive, which blamed Israel for inciting violence in the region, Tunisia and Morocco both closed trade offices in Tel Aviv, said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Oman ended its Israeli presence Oct. 19, prior to the Arab League meeting last weekend in Cairo. A Qatar bureau remains open in Israel, but may close soon.

“We do hope they stay on,” Regev said.

The closing of the offices could affect tourism and trade between Israel and the Arab countries, he said. Only three Arab League countries have full diplomatic relations with Israel: Egypt, Jordan and, most recently, Mauritania. The ties were not changed by the Arab League’s statement this weekend, Regev said, but its affect on the Middle Ease peace process is causing concern.

“Israel was trying to build a community that supported the peace process,” he said. “And now that community has been cut.”

Arab League countries with full diplomatic ties to Israel are:

• Egypt – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords in 1978 with the help of President Carter. The first of its kind, the treaty set out a broad framework for peace in the Middle East.

• Jordan – King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin formally solidified diplomatic ties between Jordan and Israel on Oct. 26, 1994. The treaty established peace and defined a framework for relations that included trade, energy and agriculture.

• Mauritania – The West African country, which is predominantly Muslim and partly Arabic, agreed to open full diplomatic relations with Israel on Oct. 28, 1999, allowing the countries to establish embassies and exchange ambassadors. At the time of the signing, Mauritanian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ould Sid’ahmed noted that his country supported what he called the full rights of Palestinians and Israel’s return of all occupied Arab lands.

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