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Equatorial Guinea announces embassy move to Jerusalem

African nation’s President Mbasogo says whole continent welcomes Israel with open arms; Netanyahu: ‘Israel is returning to Africa and Africa is returning to Israel in a big way’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo at the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 24, 2019. (Valery Sharifulin, TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)
President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo at the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 24, 2019. (Valery Sharifulin, TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)

Equatorial Guinea will move its embassy to Jerusalem, its president announced Friday in a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Teodoro Mbasogo spoke by phone with Netanyahu to inform him of the move.

Netanyahu stressed Israel’s deepening cooperation with African nations and said that “Israel is returning to Africa and Africa is returning to Israel in a big way,” according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mbasogo said that all of Africa is welcoming Israel with open arms.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official memorial ceremony for soldiers whose place of burial is unknown, February 18, 2021 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

A former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea gained its independence in 1968. With significant oil reserves, the smallest OPEC member is the richest country in Africa per capita. But few of its 1.5 million citizens enjoy that wealth, and one in five children die before they reach five years old.

Mbasogo, the world’s longest-serving president, has been in office for more than 40 years, taking power in a 1979 coup. His human rights record has been assailed by international organizations, with Human Rights Watch decrying the “corruption, poverty, and repression of civil and political rights” in the country.

The US and Guatemala have opened embassies in Israel’s capital, and Kosovo is slated to become the third country to do so.

Other nations, like Honduras, have pledged to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well.

The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy there in May 2018.

View of the site of the US Embassy in Jerusalem ahead of its inauguration, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier this month the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to keep the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, with only three senators voting against establishing funding to maintain the diplomatic mission.

Most European countries condemned Trump’s move as not in line with international consensus, preferring to wait on recognizing the city until the status of Jerusalem is finalized in talks with the Palestinians.

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