However, Ecowas leaders meeting in Liberia said the implications of its membership still needs to be considered before Morocco could formally join.

King Mohammed VI was not at the summit because Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been invited.

Morocco's application comes after it rejoined the African Union in January. Morocco left the continental body in 1984 after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara.

The North African country regards Western Sahara as part of its historic territory and has spent much of the last three decades trying to strengthen ties with Europe at the expense of relations with Africa.

Other countries seeking observer status with the group include: Tunisia and Mauritania. Both countries will have their cases decided in December at a meeting in Togo.