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After 53 years of ties with Israel, Singapore to open embassy in Tel Aviv

Asian country’s foreign minister makes announcement during meeting with Lapid in Jerusalem, says move will help countries further boost business ties

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) shakes hands with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on March 21, 2022. (Miri Shimonovich/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) shakes hands with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on March 21, 2022. (Miri Shimonovich/GPO)

Singapore will open an embassy in Tel Aviv, its foreign minister announced Monday, more than a half century after the two countries established diplomatic ties.

Singapore’s Vivian Balakrishnan notified Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of the decision during a meeting the two held in Jerusalem.

A statement from Singapore’s foreign ministry said the new embassy will “serve as a focal point and support Singapore companies seeking to expand their collaboration with potential Israeli partners.”

It did not provide a timeline for when the mission will open.

“I welcome the government of Singapore’s decision to open an embassy in Israel for the first time since the establishment of relations,” Lapid said in a statement. “This represents another testament to the good and unique relations between the countries.”

The two countries have had diplomatic relations since 1969, and have since developed close security and business ties. Israel already operates an embassy in Singapore

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, poses with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for a photo at the Istana presidential palace in Singapore, February 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)

Balakrishnan is in Israel as part of a Mideast tour that has included stops in the West Bank and Bahrain.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said Balakrishnan told Lapid that their two countries “should deepen collaboration in emerging areas such as agri-food tech, health-tech, AI and digitalization, as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Balakrishnan also used the opportunity to reiterate Singapore’s support for Palestinian statehood. “Singapore hopes that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides would find ways to engage in direct negotiations on the basis of a two-state solution,” he said, according to the readout from his office.

Balakrishnan was scheduled to visit the technology investment platform OurCrowd and meet with other Israeli tech leaders later Monday.

The development came just over a month since IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visited Singapore to attend the country’s famed weapons expo and meet defense officials in the Asian nation.

In October, Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the country. Word of Gantz’s trip was barred for publication by the military censor — though this ban was later violated by Israeli media — while Kohavi’s was publicly announced by the IDF.

A number of Israeli weapons makers presented their wares at the February expo, including Rafael, Elbit, Aeronautics and the Israeli Aerospace Industries, among others.

The financial skyline and the Marina Bay area in Singapore, June 30, 2020. (Yong Teck Lim/AP)

Israel and Singapore have long enjoyed close military ties. The IDF helped Singapore create its armed forces after the country became independent in the mid-1960s.

However, due to Singapore’s relationship with its neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia, neither of which maintain formal ties with Israel, the country tends to downplay its connections to Israel and its meetings with Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have said that the decision to censor Gantz’s trip in October was due to explicit requests from Singapore.

Singapore is Israel’s second-largest export destination in Asia after India. That is believed to include arms.

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