Israel granted official observer status at the African Union

Israeli ambassador presents credentials to Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, at bloc’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The headquarters of the African Union building in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

After nearly 20 years of diplomatic efforts, Israel has attained observer status at the African Union (AU).

Making the move official, Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad Aleli Admasu on Thursday presented his credentials to Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, at the bloc’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“This is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that noted that Israel currently has relations with 46 African countries.

Israel previously held observer status at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but was long thwarted in its attempts to get it back after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU.

“This corrects the anomaly that has existed for almost two decades and is an important part of strengthening the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations,” said the foreign ministry’s statement.

The formal establishment of Israel’s observer status with the AU will enable stronger cooperation between the two parties on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention “of the spread of extremist terrorism” on the African continent, it added.

In a separate statement, Faki stressed the AU’s position over the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reiterating the bloc’s stance that a two-state solution was ”necessary for a peaceful co-existence”.

“[Faki] emphasised that the path towards long lasting peace and stability requires that the peace process and the solutions sought must not only be acceptable, but must guarantee the rights of all parties,” read the AU’s statement.

In May, Faki condemned Israel when its forces bombarded the besieged Gaza Strip for 11 days, as well as Israeli security forces’ attacks at the Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third-holiest site located in occupied East Jerusalem – saying the Israeli army was acting “in stark violation of international law”.

Pro-Palestine language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits.

Faki used last year’s summit to denounce then-US President Donald Trump’s plan for the Middle East, drawing applause in the AU’s main hall when he said it “trampled on the rights of the Palestinian people”.

Palestine already has observer status at the AU, and Israeli diplomats have criticised recent AU statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ebba Kalondo, Faki’s spokeswoman, said there are more than 70 non-African embassies and non-governmental organisations currently accredited to the AU.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies