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Israeli diplomatic team expelled from African Union summit opening ceremony

Israeli foreign ministry protests the ‘serious’ incident

Security guards remove the Israeli delegation headed by Sharon Bar-Li (center) from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 18, 2023. (Photo: Screenshot)

The Israeli observer delegation to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa was removed from the opening ceremony on Saturday morning.

Video shared on social media and various news sites showed security personnel speaking with Deputy Director of the Africa Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sharon Bar-Li for several minutes before escorting her from the conference hall.

“Israel views seriously the incident in which the deputy for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with access badges,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lior Hayat.

According to reports in some foreign news media, Bar-Li was asked to leave because she did not have an invitation. Middle East Eye reported that only Aleli Admasu, Israel's ambassador to the African Union had been invited to the summit. Kenyan newspaper, The East African, also reported that the Israeli delegation was removed for not having proper accreditation.

Israel's Foreign Ministry disputed those claims, blaming Algeria and South Africa for the incident.

“It is sad to see that the African Union has been taken hostage by a small number of extremist countries such as Algeria and South Africa, driven by hatred and controlled by Iran," Hayat said.

“We call on the African countries to stand against these actions that harm the organization of the African Union itself and the entire continent,” Hayat added.

The African Union has been deeply divided on the issue of Israel’s observer status.

In 2021, after 20 years of diplomatic efforts, Israel was granted observer status by the African Union Commission. The move was immediately protested by Algeria and South Africa.

Israel previously held observer status in the Organization of African Unity (OAU), a predecessor, which collapsed in 2002. When that organization was replaced by the African Union, Israel was not granted observer status, partially due to the influence of Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator.

Israel has relations with 46 out of the 55 member states and has been investing heavily in diplomatic relations with the African continent, especially under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The opening of the Republic of Chad's embassy in the beginning of February and the renewed talks with Sudan are some of the fruits of this effort.

Discussions are reportedly underway to allow the Israeli delegation to return to the summit meetings.

Israel made a statement later on Saturday, saying that Israel's Dir.-Gen. of the Foreign Ministry Ronen Levy would summon the commissioner of South Africa’s embassy.

“The attempt to revoke Israel's observer status has no basis in the organization's laws. In a round of talks held today by Israeli representatives with the member states of the African Union organization, there is a clear majority that supports the status of Israel's observer in the organization," the Foreign Ministry stated.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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