A senior Israeli official met last week with the president of Chad, a Muslim-majority nation that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The meeting is another sign of growing ties with African nations following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the continent earlier this month.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold met President Idriss Déby on July 14 at his presidential palace in the city of Fada, in the heart of the Saharan desert, the Foreign Ministry said Friday in a statement.
The meeting follows Israel’s announcement earlier this week of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Guinea, an overwhelmingly Muslim state in West Africa.
The Republic of Chad, in Central Africa, cut diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in the 1970s. Gold’s meeting with Déby last week does not yet signify the formal renewal of relations. “We view the meeting as an important step in our relations with Chad,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel.
“Chad is a central country on the African continent,” the Foreign Ministry’s statement read. “It is a Muslim, Arabic-speaking country that deals with radical Islamic terrorism and this year holds the rotating chairmanship of the African Union.” The two sides discussed issues of common interest and the deepening of bilateral cooperation.
Some 13.5 million people live in Chad, 55 percent of whom are Muslim. About 40 percent are Christian.
Gold on Wednesday signed a joint declaration announcing the renewal of diplomatic relations with Guinea during a short meeting with the chief of staff of the Guinean Presidency, Ibrahim Khalil Kaba.
Netanyahu has declared the establishment of diplomatic ties with all African nations a strategic goal for its government, and visited sub-Saharan Africa two weeks ago.
The Times of Israel recently reported that Netanyahu met with the president of Somalia, Hassan Shekh Mohamud, in the first high-level contact between the two countries. Somalia, a mostly Sunni Muslim country and a member of the Arab League, has never recognized the State of Israel.
During a July 7 joint press conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Netanyahu said he was delighted that “the cooperation that we have with so many other African countries is congealing and consolidating for a recognition that all African countries, all of them without exception, can benefit from a renewed cooperation with Israel.”
Addressing the Ethiopian parliament later that day, the prime minister said he was “proud to announce that Israel is coming back to Africa in a big way… I want to see every African country represented with an embassy in Israel.”
During his historic trip to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia — the first prime ministerial visit to sub-Saharan Africa in three decades — Netanyahu announced the intention of Tanzania to open its first-ever embassy in Tel Aviv. He also said the leaders of his host countries vowed publicly to push for Israel to regain observer status at the African Union.
“Both during this visit and afterwards, we were receiving calls from other countries, some of which we do not have relations with, that they want to enhance relations,” Netanyahu said at a July 10 weekly cabinet meeting. “That is to say, there is a certain process here that is advancing toward the enhancement and normalization of our ties with African countries.”