JERUSALEM (Jul. 17)
Well informed Israeli sources are discouraging speculation that “dramatic developments” are imminent in Israel’s relations with some African countries. The speculation followed an exclusive report in Maariv Friday that Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir held a secret meeting in Europe last week with a prominent African statesman from a country which does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
The Foreign Ministry is not prepared to acknowledge any such meeting and did not react to the report. Shamir returned to Israel Friday afternoon.
The informed sources said Shamir met with more than one African envoy, though they would not say with whom. They said he discussed “bilateral relations between Israel and a number of African countries — among them some that do and some that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.”
Israel has ties with Zaire, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland, and with South Africa.
The informed sources insisted that Shamir’s talks had no connection with the current armed insurrection in Chad. Zaire has sent considerable forces to Chad to aid the government of Hissene Habre against the Libyan-backed insurgents invading from the north. Zaire is the only country openly helping Chad in this way. Under a military cooperation accord concluded last year, crack units of the Zaire army are trained by Israel.
SENTIMENT TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH ISRAEL
The sources noted an increase of sentiment among African nations to strengthen their ties with Israel in the wake of the Israel-Lebanon agreement of May 17. They indicated, however, that this does not mean a restoration of diplomatic relations is imminent.
Most Black African states cut their diplomatic ties with Israel in 1973. So far, Zaire is the only one to restore them. Israel had hoped that the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and the recent agreement with Lebanon would prompt other African states to reestablish diplomatic ties. But these hopes have not yet been realized.
Nevertheless, commercial relations between Israel and a large number of African states are flourishing, unaffected by the absence of diplomatic ties. The London Observer reported today a four million Pound Sterling police equipment deal between Israel and Nigeria.
While full ambassadorial relations remain to be re-formed, Israel has been able to expand its network of diplomatic interest sections in Africa. These are diplomatic offices operating out of friendly embassies.