Morocco on Tuesday announced that it cut diplomatic ties with Iran over its alleged involvement in the delivery of weapons from its Lebanese ally Hezbollah to the Polisario Front, AFP reported.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told reporters that "a first shipment of weapons was recently" sent to the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which is seeking independence, via an "element" at the Iranian embassy in Algiers.
He was speaking upon his return from Tehran, where he said he informed his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif of Morocco's decision.
Morocco had previously cut diplomatic links with Iran in 2009, when it accused the Islamic Republic it of questioning the Sunni rule of Bahrain, noted Reuters. Ties were gradually restored around 2014, but they were never strong, with Rabat backing Tehran’s arch-rival, Saudi Arabia.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional rivals which back opposing sides in countries such as Syria, where the Iranian regime supports President Bashar Al-Assad while the Saudis back the rebels trying to oust him.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called on Iran to stop its “meddling” in the affairs of the kingdom's neighbors.
Iran has fired back, accusing Saudi Arabia of trying to “drag the entire region into confrontation”.
The Polisario and Morocco fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.
Rabat considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco and proposes autonomy for the territory, but the Polisario Front insists on a UN referendum on independence.
On Friday, the UN Security Council backed a U.S.-drafted resolution that urges Morocco and the Polisario Front to prepare for talks on settling the decades-old conflict.
It also renewed for six months the mandate of a UN mission that has been monitoring the ceasefire in Western Sahara since 1991, noted AFP.