Amid concern in Jerusalem that images of Israel rounding up and deporting African migrants is harming Israel’s relations with African countries, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met visiting Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara Monday and praised what he said was the “close state of bilateral relations” between the two nations.

A statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office said Ouattara “expressed agreement that Israel should repatriate Ivory Coast nationals” who arrived in Israel without permission.

Of the 65,000 African migrants believed to be in the country, the numbers from the Côte d’Ivoire range from a few hundred to some 2,000.

While up until the middle of last year it was impossible to deport Ivorians because the country was in the throes of civil violence, that situation has changed since Ouattara came to power in April.

Now, according to diplomatic officials, Ouattara’s government is interested in its citizens returning from various locations around the world because it will signal that stability has returned to the country.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office statement, in addition to discussing the migrant issue, the two men also discussed terrorist threats facing both countries, as well as cooperation in the fields of health, agriculture, science and technology.

Netanyahu said he was pleased to meet Ouattara, a Muslim who won the elections there in November 2010 but was only able to take control of the country in April after French Special Forces arrested his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to peacefully give up power.

“Links between us are strengthening quickly, and your visit strengthens them even more,” Netanyahu said.

Ouattara replied that he was happy to be in Israel, and noted the “strong historic links” between the two countries.

Israel and Côte d’Ivoire first forged ties in 1962. Like the rest of Africa, Côte d’Ivoire cut off relations with Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The ties were renewed in 1986.

Israeli officials have long maintained a relationship with Ouattara, who worked together for a number of years in the International Monetary Fund with Bank of Israel Gov.

Stanley Fischer.

Israel has carried out arrests of Ivorians in the past, but not in the large scale sense that arrests of South Sudanese have been carried out recently.

Deportations will he held after the first of July, according to the Population, Immigration and Border Authority. A petition against their deportations was overruled earlier this month.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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