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A Moroccan soldier on a hilltop in Western Sahara. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in a phone call on Friday that the Biden administration would not reverse President Trump's recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara, at least for the time being, two sources familiar with the call told me. 

Why it matters: Trump's recognition of the Western Sahara as part of Morocco reversed decades of U.S. policy regarding the disputed territory, and was part of a broader deal that included the renewal of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel.

  • The U.S. decision last December was a long-sought diplomatic breakthrough for Morocco. The kingdom was concerned it could be reversed once Biden took office.
  • Israel was also concerned that a reversal of the policy would harm the normalization process with Morocco. 
  • The U.S. is the only Western country to recognize Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975 after former colonial power Spain surrendered control.

The backstory: There had been almost no contact between the Biden administration and the Moroccan government over the first three months of the new administration.

  • Ten days ago, Biden's Middle East advisor, Brett McGurk, spoke to Bourita and gave the impression that there would be no change in the U.S. policy on Western Sahara, a source familiar with the call told me.
  • The State Department readout of Blinken's call with Bourita on Friday didn't mention Western Sahara, but two sources familiar with the call confirm that it was discussed and that Blinken said the Biden administration would not reverse Trump's policy for now.
  • According to the State Department readout Blinken "welcomed Morocco’s steps to improve relations with Israel and noted the Morocco-Israel relationship will bring long-term benefits for both countries."

The state of play: Senior White House and State Department officials have held multiple discussions on this issue over the last few weeks.

  • The decision that emerged from these discussions was not to reverse Trump's policy but to work with the Moroccans on appointing a new UN envoy for the Western Sahara in order to try and resume talks on possible autonomy for the sparsely populated territory, according to two sources familiar with those discussions.
  • The State Department referred Axios to the official readout, and did not offer further comment.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Sports

Robot umpires inch closer to calling MLB games

The Automated Ball-Strike system (ABS), the tech powering what's colloquially known as robo-umps, is inching ever closer to the big leagues.

Driving the news: The independent Atlantic League — which has partnered with MLB since 2019 — last week announced it was doing away with robo-umps after testing them for the past season-and-a-half.

FBI conducts "court-authorized" search of Rep. Henry Cuellar's home

Rep. Henry Cuellar. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The FBI said it conducted a "court-authorized" search on Wednesday in the area of the Texas home of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

State of play: "The FBI was present in the vicinity of Windridge Drive and Estate Drive in Laredo conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity," an FBI spokesperson told Axios, adding that they "cannot provide further comment on an ongoing investigation."

Big Tech lobbies hard against looming antitrust bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech CEOs, including Apple's Tim Cook and Google's Sundar Pichai, have been jawboning lawmakers as a Senate committee takes up a key antitrust bill Thursday.

Why it matters: The bill prompting this lobbying frenzy could upend how tech's giants do business, and tech's critics see this as a "now or never" moment for Congress to check the industry's power.