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Malawi’s new president vows to open diplomatic office in Jerusalem

Following Serbia and Kosovo, Lazarus Chakwera announces reforms that could include first mission by an African nation in Israel’s capital

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

Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera greets supporters after being sworn in in Lilongwe, Malawi, June 28, 2020. Chakwera is Malawi’s sixth president after winning the historic election held last week, the first time a court-overturned vote in Africa has resulted in the defeat of an incumbent leader. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)
Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera greets supporters after being sworn in in Lilongwe, Malawi, June 28, 2020. Chakwera is Malawi’s sixth president after winning the historic election held last week, the first time a court-overturned vote in Africa has resulted in the defeat of an incumbent leader. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)

The new president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, on Saturday announced plans to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.

His promise follows declarations made by the respective leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on Friday.

Chakwera, an Evangelical who was inaugurated as the Southern African nation’s president on July 6, announced a series of reforms that would include upgrading the country’s Foreign Ministry and its network of embassies worldwide.

“The reforms will also include a review of our diplomatic presence, including our resolve to have new diplomatic missions in Lagos, Nigeria and Jerusalem, Israel. I will be sharing more details about this in the near future,” he declared.

Chakwera, 65, holds a PhD in theology and has long been supportive of the Jewish state, which he last visited last year.

So far, Malawi — a mostly Christian country with 21 million inhabitants — has no embassy in Israel. Israel’s non-resident ambassador to Malawi, Oded Joseph, is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

If Chakwera fulfills his promise, Malawi would be the first African country to establish a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.

In February, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would look into the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem. Appearing alongside Museveni at a news conference in Entebbe, Netanyahu suggested that Israel would open an embassy in Kampala if Uganda were to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

“We’re studying that,” Museveni replied.

Netanyahu said he was hoping they could move ahead on the embassies “in the near future.”

So far, only the US and Guatemala operate full-fledged embassies in Jerusalem. A number of countries have opened trade, defense or cultural missions in the city, including Brazil, Australia, Hungary and Honduras.

On Friday, Serbia and Kosovo unexpectedly announced their intention to establish embassies in the capital as well, in the context of a bilateral economic normalization agreement brokered by the US administration.

US President Donald Trump signs a document as Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (R) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (L) sign an agreement on opening economic relations, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 4, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
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