Israel and South Sudan formally establish ties

Lieberman: Cooperation will be based on solid foundations, mutual respect; Maltese FM leaves impression country won't vote with PA at UN.

South Sudan Israel flags 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
South Sudan Israel flags 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Israel and South Sudan formally established diplomatic relations on Thursday, some two weeks after the new country declared independence from Sudan, a radical Islamic state and one of the most hostile countries to Israel in Africa.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the establishment of ties, issuing a statement saying “the cooperation between the two countries will be based on solid foundations, relations of equality and mutual respect.”
RELATED:African Union admits South Sudan as 54th member World’s contractors eye opportunity in South Sudan
A parallel announcement was made in Juba, the new country’s capital, where the president of the new country, Salva Kiir, met with Jacques Revach, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Africa division, and Dan Shacham, Israel’s nonresident ambassador to a number of African countries.
The nature of the relations, including the appointment of ambassadors, will be discussed in the coming days, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Just three days after South Sudan declared independence on July 9, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to Kiir and said Israel would be happy to help the fledgling country in “any way.”
Israel recognized the new country on July 10.
A number of revelers in Juba celebrating independence waved Israeli flags, a gesture interpreted by some as a sign of gratitude to Israel for support during years of struggle against the north. About 8,000 Sudanese migrants, many of them from South Sudan, are believed to be in Israel. One of the first topics of discussion between the two countries is likely to be the repatriation of many of these refuge-seekers.
In other diplomatic developments, Netanyahu met on Thursday with Tonio Borg, the foreign minister of Malta, an EU country that had a markedly unfriendly attitude toward Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, but with which ties have improved significantly over the past few months.
Malta’s Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was to have been the first prime minister in that country’s history to visit Israel earlier this year, but canceled his trip because of the crisis in nearby Libya. Borg invited Netanyahu to be the first Israeli prime minister to visit Malta.
One diplomatic source who sat in on the meeting with Borg said he did not get the impression that Malta was going to support the Palestinians in their bid for statehood recognition at the UN in September.
“We are on a very different trajectory with Malta now,” the official said, likening the improvement in ties with that country to similar upgrades with Greece and Cyprus following the deterioration of relations with Turkey.
While Malta was one of only five of the EU’s 27 countries to vote in 2009 in favor of adopting the Goldstone Commission report on Operation Cast Lead, the official said that following Thursday’s meeting the impression was that “they would not now support a one-sided resolution.”