Israel and Nicaragua have renewed official diplomatic relations after a seven-year freeze, the Foreign Ministry confirmed early Wednesday.
The Central American country severed diplomatic ties in 2010, in protest over the flotilla incident, during which violent pro-Palestinian activists and IDF troops clashed aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the melee and several Israeli troops seriously hurt.
“Throughout the years, until the suspension of ties in 2010, we had friendly relations and cooperation in various areas such as agriculture, health and education,” a joint statement read. “The two governments attribute great importance in the renewal of relations, with the goal of advancing joint activities for the benefit of the two peoples and contributing in the fight to reach peace in the world.”
Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada Colindres met with the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for Latin America, Modi Ephraim, last week in Managua to concludes months of secret negotiations.
“Renewing relations with Nicaragua has all of the benefits of building bridges between Israel and left-wing Latin American governments but without the downside of antagonizing the powerful and pro-Israel Cuba lobby in Congress,” Deputy Minister of Diplomacy Michael Oren told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.
Nicaragua, a mostly Catholic country, is closely aligned with Iran — which runs training camps for its militias in the country — and usually votes against Israel in diplomatic forums such as the United Nations.
On Tuesday, several hours before the renewal of ties was officially confirmed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a country would announce the renewal of diplomatic ties with Israel next week, but did not say which one.
“Today, we’re blessed to have relations with over 160 countries and the number continues to grow,” Netanyahu said at the president’s residence in Jerusalem.
“Next week an additional country will announce the establishment of relations with the State of Israel. Last year, I visited five continents, not including Latin America, [but] including the leading powers of the world: the US, Russia, China, and of course other countries — Britain, Australia, African countries, Muslim countries [such as] Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.”
The prime minister went on to speak about Israel’s growing ties with Asian powers such as China, Vietnam and India, whose prime minister, Narendra Modi, is expected to visit Israel this summer.
“All of this symbolizes the dramatic change in our international standing,” Netanyahu said.
When Netanyahu spoke, the exact number of countries Israel has diplomatic relations with was actually 159.
The announcement is not the first time the two countries re-establish ties that had been severed. Relations between Jerusalem and Managua were first cut in 1982, as a consequence of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and re-established 10 years later.
In the Israeli government’s recently published work plan, which lays out the goals of the various ministries and government agencies for 2017-2018, the Foreign Ministry said it wants to make “efforts to renew diplomatic relations with the four countries that severed them” — Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.