Netanyahu says Israel, Rwanda to open mutual embassies

PM states Kigali officials also interested in starting direct flights to Tel Aviv

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (L) in New York, September 27, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (L) in New York, September 27, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

NEW YORK — During their meeting Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rwandan President Paul Kagame agreed to open embassies in each other’s countries, Netanyahu said Friday. In time, he said, he hoped the embassy would move to Jerusalem.

The prime minister told Israeli reporters traveling with him in the US that Rwanda also wants to open a direct flight line between Kigali and Tel Aviv.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss regional threats including that posed by Iran.

They also discussed the situation in the Horn of Africa and the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Netanyahu apparently asked for Kagame’s assistance in advancing ties with additional African countries.

In April, Rwanda denied it had ever made an agreement with Israel to take in deported asylum seekers, responding to Netanyahu’s claim that it had backed out of a deal he had spent two years working on.

Netanyahu said at the time that he had been “working with Rwanda so that it will serve as a third-party country to absorb” deported migrants.

He made the claim after freezing an agreement with the UN refugee agency that would have seen thousands of African migrants given temporary status in Israel and others deported to Western countries. The agreement with the UN, which was meant to replace the discarded deportation deal with Rwanda, was dropped by the prime minister hours after he announced it, amid fierce criticism from parts of his right-wing base.

No alternative to that scrapped deal has so far been reached. But Netanyahu said Friday that he and Kagame discussed the issue on Thursday.

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