Israel set to renew diplomatic ties with Nicaragua
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Israel set to renew diplomatic ties with Nicaragua

Latin American country, which is closely allied with Iran, cut relations over 2010's Gaza flotilla affair

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows his map of Israel's world relations, at a session of the Knesset State Control Committee, on July 25, 2016. To his side is committee chair Karin Elharar of Yesh Atid. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows his map of Israel's world relations, at a session of the Knesset State Control Committee, on July 25, 2016. To his side is committee chair Karin Elharar of Yesh Atid. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Nicaragua is set to renew diplomatic relations with Israel in the coming days, according to Hebrew media reports.

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 fatally aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that one country would announce the renewal of diplomatic ties with Israel next week, but did not say which one. Minutes after his speech, during an event for past Israeli prime ministers and presidents, several Israeli reporters tweeted that he was referring to Nicaragua.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the matter.

“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, Narenda Modi, is expected to visit Israel this summer.

“All of this symbolizes the dramatic change in our international standing,” Netanyahu said.

The exact number of countries Israel has diplomatic relations with is actually 159. The last country to renew ties with Israel, in July 2016, was Guinea, a Muslim-majority nation in West Africa.

Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold (second from right) signs a deal to restore diplomatic ties with Guinea in Paris, France on July 20, 2016. (Courtesy Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold (second from right) signs a deal to restore diplomatic ties with Guinea in Paris, France on July 20, 2016. (Courtesy Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

 

The expected 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.

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.

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.

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