Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Israel and Chad renew diplomatic relations, Benjamin Netanyahu says

Muslim-majority nation renews ties after they were severed in 1972

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reviews an honour guard upon his arrival to N'Djamena, Chad. Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reviews an honour guard upon his arrival to N'Djamena, Chad. Reuters

Chad renewed its official relationship with Israel yesterday, decades after the African nation cut diplomatic ties.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israeli leader, who is fighting corruption allegations, and Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno had “announced the renewal of diplomatic relations” after more than three decades.

Mr Netanyahu, posting on Twitter, called the announcement “a historic moment”.

Speaking in N’Djamena on the first visit there by an Israeli prime minister, he said that “Israel is making inroads into the Islamic world”.

“This is the result of considerable effort in recent years. We are making history and we are turning Israel into a rising global power,” Mr Netanyahu said.

Chad broke off ties with Israel in 1972 but he has been courting the Muslim-majority country. Mr Deby visited Israel in November.

The substance of their talks is unclear but there has been speculation that an arms deal to help Chad fight rebels in the north of the country may have been at the centre of the drive to mend ties.

Chad is engaged in the battle to defeat Boko Haram, the ISIS offshoot based in Nigeria.

Mr Deby is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.

He took over the arid, impoverished nation in 1990 and won a disputed fifth term in April 2016 to lead the country of about 15 million people.

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Chad is one of the world’s least developed states, the World Bank’s Human Development Index says, and its government has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and rigged elections.

Mr Netanyahu has tried to improve ties with countries in the Arab and Muslim world, and said he expected similar diplomatic breakthroughs soon.

Many Arab states refuse to have diplomatic ties with Israel because of its occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians want as part of a future state.

The Palestinians and Iran opposed Chad’s move and Mr Netanyahu appeared to aim remarks at both parties.

“There are those who tried to sabotage this trip, but they were unsuccessful,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu is under increasing pressure at home as Israel’s attorney general is reportedly preparing to indict the prime minister on corruption charges.

To avoid the impact of an indictment, Mr Netanyahu called early elections for April to tackle any leadership challenge with a new mandate.

He has sped up attempts to secure diplomatic victories abroad to detract from his domestic troubles.

Mr Netanyahu also attended the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro this month, making attempts to lobby the right-wing leader about moving Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem.

Only the US, Guatemala and Paraguay moved their missions to Jerusalem, and Paraguay has since reversed that decision.

Updated: January 20, 2019 10:25 PM

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