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Chad President visits Israel

The President of Chad made a historic visit to Israel yesterday, 46 years after diplomatic relations were severed between the two countries.

President Idriss Déby met with his Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described the first visit by a leader of the Muslim-majority West African nation to Israel as “historic”.

Netanyahu added: “I’m delighted that we are resuming our friendship. We never fully stopped our contacts but we are now expanding them at a very rapid rate. And we wish to do so in all areas. First of all in fighting terrorism, which is a common goal of all countries. Give our peoples what they deserve: security, food, water, clean water, health, medicine, all the things that our cooperation can produce for the benefit of both our countries.”

President Déby said his visit is “an opportunity to express the profound appreciation that I feel for the efforts that you have undertaken in order to bring our countries closer”. He described how bilateral relations were cut off in 1972 “under special historical circumstances, but the rupture has not completely isolated the ties. Even if there were no contacts on the diplomatic level, good ties continued all the time”.

He added that “the Palestinian problem will not go away. I myself declared more than once in the UN that my country longs for a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and this agreement ought to reflect the Arab peace initiative, agreements between both sides, and the principles of [the] Madrid [conference of 1991]”.

Contact with Chad was publically renewed two and a half years ago by then-Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general Dore Gold. Channel Ten News reported last month that a high-level Israeli delegation visited Chad and met with top officials in the government, including the president’s son.

Israel is working to restore diplomatic ties with a number of central African nations, including Sudan, Mali and Niger. An Israeli official told Kan Radio that Israel was also working to promote ties with Bahrain. Yesterday Netanyahu said that “there will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon”.

Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg criticised the visit and described Déby as: “a despicable person who is responsible for the persecution of LGBT people, arresting journalists, arresting opposition dissidents and establishing a dictatorial regime in the country”.