Israel renews Guinea ties after 49-year break

AFP , Wednesday 20 Jul 2016

Israel said Wednesday it has renewed diplomatic relations with Guinea, 49 years after the mostly-Muslim West African state severed ties following the 1967 Six-Day War.

"I am happy to announce that just now we signed... a joint declaration announcing the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Guinea and the state of Israel," Israeli foreign ministry director Dore Gold said in a statement from Paris, where he met senior Guinean official Ibrahim Khalil Kaba.

The announcement followed close on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "historic" four-nation Africa trade and security tour aimed at boosting ties.

At the start of the July 4-7 trip, the first by an Israeli premier to sub-Saharan Africa for decades, Netanyahu proclaimed "Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel."

Prior to his departure Israel announced a relatively modest $13 million (12 million euro) aid package to strengthen economic ties and cooperation with African countries.

Netanyahu said he expected another exchange of ambassadors soon.

"In the coming days I think that yet another country will be added," his office quoted him as saying on Wednesday. "This is part of a process that is gaining momentum."

Israel's business with Africa constitutes only two percent of its foreign trade, leaving plenty of room for growth while demand for its defence expertise and products is rising.

It also sees African countries as potential allies, particularly at the United Nations and other international bodies, where it is regularly condemned over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli-Arab conflict drove a wedge between African countries and Israel in the 1960s.

It was exacerbated by Israel's occupation of North African heavyweight Egypt's territory in the 1967 war and another round of fighting in 1973.

The conflict led a stream of African countries to break off relations with Israel although many have since renewed them.

In his Hebrew-language statement, Gold called on them to join Guinea in resuming ties.

"The number of states on the continent yet to do so is shrinking and I hope that soon there will be none," he said.

"Israel calls on those states which have still not renewed diplomatic relations to follow in Guinea's footsteps so that we can work together for the benefit of all the peoples of the region."

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