Leaders of Kazakhstan, Democratic Republic of Congo keen on Israel trip

Netanyahu made the groundbreaking visit to Kazakhstan's capital Astana in 2016, after visiting Azerbaijan, which – like Kazakhstan – is a Muslim majority country.

May 2, 2019 00:32
2 minute read.
Felix Tshisekedi during the inauguration ceremony on January 24, 2019

Felix Tshisekedi holds the country's coat of arms during the inauguration ceremony whereby Tshisekedi was sworn into office as the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 24, 2019. (photo credit: OLIVIA ACLAND/REUTERS)

Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Askar Mamin told a group of Jewish leaders earlier this week that he plans on visiting Israel, a trip that – if it comes to fruition – would be the highest level visit between the countries’ two leaders since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit that country in 2016.

Netanyahu made the groundbreaking visit to Kazakhstan’s capital Astana in 2016, after visiting Azerbaijan, which – like Kazakhstan – is a Muslim-majority country.

Last month, Kazakhstan announced that it will be changing the name of its capital to Nur-Sultan, a tribute to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only president the country has ever known, who stepped down suddenly in March after serving for just shy of three decades.

Nazarbayev visited Israel at least three times: in 1995, 2000, and 2013, with the last visit reportedly for medical treatment.

Nazarbayev was succeeded by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who met with a delegation of Jewish leaders including by Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC) President Mikhael Mirilashvili, its chairman Aaron Frenkel and Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar. The group issued a statement saying it urged Tokayev, who has called for elections on June 9, to “support Israel on the international stage and thanked the head of state for taking a firm stand in denouncing antisemitism and supporting the Jewish community.”

Kazakhstan is an important economic and security partner in central Asia for Israel, supplying Israel with about a quarter of its oil needs. The two countries also enjoy a significant military and security relationship, with Intelligence Online reporting counterterrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing.

But despite the close economic, diplomatic and security ties, Kazakhstan almost always votes against Israel in UN forums.

Mamin, who took over as prime minister in February, told the EAJC delegation that he plans to visit Israel at the invitation of Netanyahu, expressing hope for expanding bilateral trade between the two countries.

Foreign Ministry sources in Jerusalem said that this was the first they have heard of a planned visit by Mamin.

Another leader who expressed an interest in visiting Israel is President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Tshisekedi congratulated Netanyahu on his election victory during a phone conversation Tuesday night, where the two leaders discussed ways to strengthen ties between the two countries. During the call, Tshisekedi accepted an invitation to visit Israel, though no date for the visit has yet been published.

Tshisekedi won elections in the country on December 30, and assumed power in January. The DRC is currently in the throes of an Ebola epidemic, with a one-day record of 27 new confirmed cases of the disease registered on Sunday.

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