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The parade of foreign ministers to Israel continues, as British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is scheduled to arrive Monday for her first visit, while Kenyan Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju arrived here Sunday for a five-day visit.
According to Israeli diplomatic officials, Beckett's two-day visit was planned far in advance, and is part of regular high-level visits by British officials. Beckett took over from Jack Straw as foreign secretary in May, and since that time British Prime Minister Tony Blair has visited Israel twice.
Beckett is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Last week, the foreign ministers of Ireland and Hungary visited Jerusalem. In 2006 there were 29 such visits by the foreign ministers of EU countries.
By contrast, Tuju's visit is the first by a Kenyan foreign minister in more than 10 years. Nevertheless, Kenya, according to Ambassador to Nairobi Emanuel Seri, is considered one of Israel's closest friends in Africa, and Tuju's visit is a manifestation of that friendship.
Tuju has meetings scheduled with Olmert, Livni, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as with Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem.
Seri said Kenya renewed full diplomatic relations with Israel, broken off after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, in 1988, and has rich ties with the country that include trade of about $65 million a year, as well as various aid projects.
Last January, Israel dispatched a 120-member Home Front Command rescue team to Nairobi following the collapse of a building that trapped more than 280 construction workers inside. Seri said the move was widely appreciated by the Kenyan government.
While Kenya was on the tourist map for Israelis for many years - some 20,000 Israelis visited annually at the beginning of the decade - this came to an abrupt end when the Paradise Mombasa Hotel was bombed in November 2002, killing 10 Kenyans and three Israelis. Since then, both charter flights and El Al's direct flight have been canceled because of security consideration. Likewise, the National Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Division has a travel advisory in place against travel to Kenya.
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