Sierra Leone said Friday that it would open an embassy in Jerusalem, making the West African nation the sixth to commit to basing its diplomatic mission in the Israeli capital.
The announcement came in a statement from President Julius Maada Bio following a conversation Thursday with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
“They discussed the warm relations between both countries that date back to 1961 when Sierra Leone gained independence. As part of efforts to strengthen the relationship between the two nations, His Excellency President Bio expressed his government’s readiness to establish an Embassy of Sierra Leone in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel,” The statement said.
Currently, the US, Guatemala Honduras and Kosovo have embassies in Jerusalem, while Paraguay announced last week it would reopen its embassy there too. Israel sees the moves as strengthening its claim to the city as its capital, though most foreign countries situate their embassies in or around Tel Aviv.
Cohen welcomed the move.
“I was pleased to hear from the president of Sierra Leone of his intentions to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Cohen said.
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“We continue to put Jerusalem, our eternal capital, at the head of the diplomatic program of the State of Israel,” he said, adding that an unnamed nation from the Asia Pacific region would also open an embassy in Jerusalem in September.
Israel and Sierra Leone established diplomatic ties in 1961, but they were suspended in 1973 — along with several other African nations — following the Yom Kippur War.
Ties were re-established in 1992. Israel does not have an embassy in Sierra Leone but is represented by the Ambassador in Ghana.
Israel considers Jerusalem to be its capital, including East Jerusalem, which it annexed in 1980. The move has not been recognized by most of the international community, which says the final borders of the city should be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel still has relations with nearly 100 countries but nearly all have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.