In Israel, Congolese president says seeking ‘closer security, agriculture ties’

During visit at President’s Residence, Herzog promises to ensure that Israel reopens embassy in Kinshasa

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President Isaac Herzog (right) meets with Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, October 27, 2021 (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (right) meets with Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, October 27, 2021 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said on Wednesday morning that he wanted to build closer ties with Israel in the fields of security, agriculture, infrastructure, and digital technology.

Speaking to the press at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem alongside his counterpart Isaac Herzog, Tshisekedi said in French that the DRC wants to “develop the best possible relations with Israel.”

“I was happy to hear last year about your decision to appoint an ambassador in Israel and to open an economic section in Jerusalem,” said Herzog. “There is tremendous potential for collaboration between Israel and you and your country, and we shall do everything to bring a blessing for all of us.”

Tshisekedi promised at the 2020 AIPAC conference to appoint an ambassador to Israel after a two-decade gap, and to open a commercial section in Jerusalem.

Herzog thanked his counterpart for standing by Israel at the UN, and for supporting Israel joining the African Union as an observer state.

Tshisekedi assumed the chairmanship of the African Union in February.

President Isaac Herzog prepares to review an IDF honor guard with Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi at Beit HaNasi in Jerusalem, October 27, 2021 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

Possibly alluding to allegations that Tshisekedi’s 2018 election victory was rigged, Herzog declared, “The State of Israel supports unconditionally your firm leadership.”

During brief remarks before their working meeting, Herzog noted, “My father was the sixth president of the State of Israel, whose first state visit was to your country in 1984, and now the first president to make a state visit of my presidency is you.”

Herzog also promised to do everything he could to ensure that Israel reopens its embassy in Kinshasa, after it was shuttered in 2003 amidst ongoing warfare in the country.

Stepping onto the red carpet at the president’s official residence, Tshisekedi joined Herzog as they reviewed an IDF honor guard before greeting diplomatic and religious dignitaries, including the Latin and Greek Orthodox patriarchs of Jerusalem.

Tshisekedi, a deeply religious Christian, visited biblical sites at the Sea of Galilee, including Capernaum, on Tuesday along with his entourage.

While in Israel Tuesday, Tshisekedi spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the military coup in Sudan.

Israel had a warm relationship with Mobutu Sese Seko, the US-allied dictator of the nation formerly known as Zaire, who in 1982 broke with most African states to restore relations with the Jewish state. Ties deteriorated during the fighting two decades ago.

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