Peres meets African president, deportation begins

Ivory Coast president expected to deliver keynote address on global economy at Peres' Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow.

Peres 370 (Marc) (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Peres 370 (Marc)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
It is somehow ironic that on the very day that Israel is sending 150 South Sudanese migrants back to South Sudan, and on the verge of deporting a much larger number of migrants, President Shimon Peres hosted a state reception for the representative of another African country.
President Alassane Dramane Ouatttara, who is President of the Ivory Coast or the Cote d'Ivoire as the Iborians prefer to call it, is on a state visit to Israel. An economist by profession, he spent five years as deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund .
Prior to his stint in Washington, Ouattara served as his country's prime minister. Peres has also served as his country's prime minister, and although he did not work for the International Monetary Fund, one of the many positions he held in Israel was that of Finance Minister. With so many commonalities, the two men had much to talk about during their working meeting following the official reception.
Later in the day, Peres hosted a luncheon for Ouattara at the King David hotel..
The Ivory Coast has been beset by severe security problems and human rights abuses Ouattara is trying to restructure his country into a modern democracy, and is seeking Israel's cooperation in helping to speed up development.
Ouattara is combining a state visit with participation in the Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow which opens in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Ouattara will be the keynote speaker at Wednesday's plenary session on 'The World Economy – Will it get worse before it gets better?" Although he is one of several heads of state participating in the conference, he is the only one who is also paying a state visit 50 years after the state visit in 1962 by President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who at that time, signed a cooperation agreement with Israel.
Reflecting on the period, Peres said that he was the only person present who was old enough to remember it. Houphouet-Boigny, was a great admirer of Israel's development and technology as is Ouattara., who mentioned Israel's assistance to the Ivory Coast particularly in agriculture. Israel also helped the Ivory Coast to develop its tourism and its military efficiency.
Close ties notwithstanding,Houphouet-Boigny in line with the OAU (Organization of African Unity) severed ties with Israel in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in October, 1973, and did not renew diplomatic relations until February 1986, although the two countries had continued to maintain informal links.
More than that, despite strong opposition, the Embassy was to be located in Jerusalem, thereby ignoring the United Nations Security Council 1980 resolution that called on all member states to remove their embassies from Israel's capital, which has long been a subject of international dispute. Some South American countries were equally defiant of the ruling, but in recent years all embassies disappeared from Jerusalem and the building owned by the Ivory Coast is now used by the International Christian Embassy that was established largely in protest at the diplomatic exodus.
Among those standing in n the reception line for Ouattara was Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, who is a personal friend, and who had greeted him on Saturday evening at Ben Gurion Airport.
Fischer, like Ouattar, served as Deputy Managing Director of the IMF.
Peres told Ouattara that Israel had missed the Ivory Coast during the years in which relations had been severed, and said that he was very glad that they had been restored.
The meeting between the two presidents was not quite as formal as is customary on such occasions. For instance, because of the weather, the reception line was inside the building instead of outside in the scorching heat, and neither President made a formal speech, but immediately sat down for an armchair chat.