Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi left on Wednesday for a two day visit to Myanmar, marking the highest-level visit there by an Israeli official since then-foreign minister Moshe Dayan visited in 1979.
According to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry, Myanmar has a “friendly and long standing” relationship with Israel, dating back to the early 1950s.
Israel established diplomatic ties with Burma – as Myanmar was then known – in 1953, and Prime Minister U Nu visited Israel two years later, the first-ever visit to Israel by any foreign prime minister.
Then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion payed a reciprocal visit in 1961. At the time these ties were deemed very significant, as the relationship was Israel’s first significant diplomatic breakthrough with a Third World country. The honeymoon period ended with the military coup that overthrew U Nu in 1962, though the nations have maintained relations and have embassies in each other’s country.
According to the Foreign Ministry statement, in recent years Myanmar has undergone “a process of democratization and national reconciliation, aimed at ending the conflicts between different ethnic groups.”
The economy of the county was growing at an “intensive pace,” making it an attractive destination for investors, including companies and businessmen from Israel, the statement said.
Hanegbi will meet while in Myanmar with Foreign Minister Wanna Maung Lwin (who is also a former ambassador to Israel), the speaker of parliament, as well as with Nobel Peace Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
During the visit, Israel and Myanmar are expected to sign a framework cooperation agreement in culture and sport.