Israel and Morocco sign defense agreement

Israel and Morocco have signed an agreement to promote defense cooperation, including intelligence activities and joint military drills.

Israeli media say it is the first official defense pact between Israel and an Arab nation.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi signed the agreement in Morocco's capital Rabat on Wednesday.

Gantz said the pact would allow the two countries to enter joint projects and promote ties between their defense industries.

Israel had long been at odds with Arab states over the Palestinian issue.

But last year it normalized diplomatic relations with four Arab nations, including Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, as part of U.S.-brokered talks.

Last month a senior UAE military official observed, for the first time, a joint defense exercise Israel held with eight countries, including the United States and France.

Observers say Israel is moving to strengthen military ties with Arab nations to raise its presence in the region and to keep Iran, with which it has a hostile relationship, in check.