x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

South Sudan president makes first visit to Israel

South Sudan's road to independence was the "proper model" and should be followed by the Palestinians, Israel's deputy foreign minister said.

JERUSALEM // South Sudan's road to independence was the "proper model" and should be followed by the Palestinians, Israel's deputy foreign minister said, during a visit by the country's president.

It was Salva Kiir's first trip to the country.

"This is a working visit of just one day," a diplomatic source said, indicating that the aim was to keep the visit "low profile" at the request of South Sudan.

Mr Kiir was met on arrival by the deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon. South Sudan's route to independence - implementing a peace deal with Khartoum, after which it joined the UN - was "the proper model" that should also be adopted by the Palestinians, said Mr Ayalon.

"The story of your independence ought to set a very good example for anyone interested in achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East. A country cannot emerge virtually," he added, referring to Palestinian attempts to secure full UN membership.

Mr Kiir, who arrived late on Monday, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum yesterday before holding talks with his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres.

He was also due to have a working lunch with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and to meet the defence minister, Ehud Barak, and the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Israel established full diplomatic relations with Mr Kiir's government shortly after it declared independence in July following a 22-year civil war with the mostly Muslim north.

Israel does not have relations with Khartoum, which it has accused of serving as a base for militants.

Israel's ties with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which is now the south's ruling party, have reportedly been close for a long time.

Israel allegedly provided arms during the war, although neither side has publicly acknowledged any weapons transfers.