Israel official on first visit to Chad in 40 years

Foreign Ministry Director Dr. Dore Gold visits Chad, meets with President Deby in effort to improve relations between two countries.

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Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold
Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold
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A top Israeli official traveled to Chad earlier this month for talks on bolstering ties, the first such visit since ties were severed in 1972, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Foreign Ministry Director Dr. Dore Gold met President Idriss Deby at his palace in the northern Chad on July 14, as Israel is pressing a campaign to improve ties with Africa, the Ministry said.

The announcement came two days after Israel renewed diplomatic relations with Guinea after a 49-year break and close on the heels of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's four-nation Africa tour.

Gold discussed with Deby "matters of common interest" and "strengthening bilateral relations, but did not agree a timetable for a full renewal of ties, foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Nahshon confirmed it was the first such high-level meeting since 1972, when Chad severed relations with Israel.

Relations between Africa and Israel have been strained over the years.

In the 1960s the Arab-Israeli conflict drove a wedge between African countries, many of which were embroiled in liberation struggles, and the Jewish state.

Later, wars between Israel and its neighbors in 1967 and 1973 led North African nations to urge sub-Saharan African states to cut ties with Israel, which many did.

Netanyahu made a "historic" visit to four sub-Saharan African nations from July 4-7, the first such trip by an Israeli prime minister in decades.

After Wednesday's announcement that Israel and Guinea were restoring ties, Netanyahu said he expected another African country to formally renew relations "in the coming days".

Israel's business with Africa constitutes only two percent of its foreign trade, leaving plenty of room for growth while demand for its defense expertise and products is rising.

It also sees African countries as potential allies, particularly at the United Nations and other international bodies, where it is regularly condemned over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials point out that a number African countries are facing Islamist insurgencies and seek to benefit from Israeli technologies and experience.

"Israel has been pursuing in the last years a policy of dialogue and close contacts with the African continent," Nahshon told AFP.

"We believe this is a message for the whole continent," he said.

AFP contributed to this report








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