Israel joins the African Union as an observer after a nearly two-decade effort

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Friday 23 July 2021 – 1:25 AM25
| Last updated:
Friday 23 July 2021 – 1:25 AM25

Officials announced Thursday that Israel has been officially granted observer status in the African Union, a goal that Israeli diplomats have worked to achieve for nearly two decades.

The Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, Alile Admaso, presented his credentials as an observer in the African Union to the Chairman of the Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, at the organization’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, according to statements by both parties.

“This is a day of celebration for Israeli-African relations,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement issued by his office.

The statement added that the observer status will enable Israel to further assist the African Union in the areas of combating the Covid pandemic and terrorism.

Israel had previously obtained observer status in the Organization of African Unity, but after the dissolution of the Organization of Unity in 2002 and its replacement by the African Union, its attempts to restore this status were thwarted.

“This corrects the anomaly that has existed for nearly two decades, and is an important part of strengthening the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations,” Lapid said.

He added that this step “will help us to strengthen our activities on the African continent and with the member states of the organization.”

Lapid’s statement indicated that Israel currently maintains relations with 46 African countries and “has extensive partnerships and joint cooperation in various fields, including trade and aid.”

Palestine also enjoys the status of an observer member of the African Union, and recent statements of the African Union regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been a source of inconvenience to Israel.

In May, Faki condemned the Israeli “bombing” of the Gaza Strip as well as the “violent attacks” of Israeli security forces at Al-Aqsa Mosque, saying that the Israeli army was acting “in flagrant violation of international law.”

The tone of the union’s annual summits is usually pro-Palestinian.

Faki used the convening of the African Union Summit 2020 to denounce the plan of former US President Donald Trump for peace in the Middle East, and when he said that this plan “trampled on the rights of the Palestinian people,” he won applause in the main hall of the African Union.

In his statement Thursday, Faki stressed that the African Union “was very clear in its position (…) that the two-state solution is necessary for peaceful coexistence.”

Ebba Kalondo, a spokeswoman for Faki, said that there are more than 70 non-African embassies and non-governmental organizations currently accredited to the African Union.

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