JERUSALEM (May. 16)
Senior Israeli officials described Zaire’s announcement that it will reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel as “a breakthrough in the relations with Block Africa.” Zaire announced its intention to resume relations with Israel last Friday and a special envoy of President Mobutu arrived here today for talks with Premier Menachem Begin, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.
The envoy announced that Zaire would open its embassy in Jerusalem, to become the second embassy returning to the capital. Last week Casta Rica announced that it was moving its embassy back to Jerusalem From Tel Aviv.
Zaire is the first African country to resume diplomatic ties with Israel but diplomatic circles believe that at least half a dozen other African states will follow suit. Among those generally mentioned are the Central African Republic, Gabon, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast,
GROUNDWORK LAID FOR RESUMING TIES
During the 1960’s more than 30 African states had diplomatic relations with Israel and practically all had their embassies in Jerusalem. Most African countries severed their relations with Israel after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, as a sign of solidarity with Egypt.
Mobutu, however, announced that his nation was breaking relations with Israel in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly two days before the war began. Now Zaire reportedly feels that with the completion of Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai, the time is ripe to reestablish ties with the Jewish State.
While visiting Washington last December, Mobutu announced that he was ready to renew diplomatic ties with Israel and would probably do so after Israel’s final withdrawal from Sinai. Sharon met Mobutu during a secret trip to Africa last November and laid the groundwork for the resumption of relations between the two countries.
PRESENT RELATIONS WITH AFRICAN STATES
Presently more than 4,000 Israeli experts are believed to be stationed in Black African nations where dozens of Israeli companies continue to operate in spite of the absence of diplomatic ties. In Zaire alone, some 300 Israeli industrial and agricultural experts as well as businessmen and banking representatives are already working in close harmony with state-owned and private firms.
Israel maintains diplomatic relations with three African states — Malawi, Swaziland and Lesoto. It also maintains unofficial relations with the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Central African Republic, Kenya and Gabon. Israel is represented in those countries by regular diplomats who operate from the missions of Denmark, Canada, Belgium and Switzerland, Recently Israel resumed efforts to reinstitute some kind of diplomatic representation in countries such as Senegal. Upper Volta, Cameroon, Zambia and Zimbabwe.