PARIS (Oct. 22)
Ivory Coast will move its Embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Radio Abidjan reported Wednesday, apparently under massive pressure from the Arab League member states which decided at a meeting in Tunis last week to break diplomatic relations with the West African nation.
Ivory Coast, which broke relations with Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, restored them last December and opened its Embassy in Jerusalem to become the third country to have an Embassy in the Israeli capital.
Radio Abidjan announced Wednesday that President Felix Houphouet-Boigny has asked his government to approve the Embassy move and, according to diplomatic sources here, approval will be automatic. French radio reports said Houphouet-Boigny consulted by telephone with King Hassan of Morocco before deciding on the move. They hinted that Hassan, who hosted Israeli Premier Shimon Peres on a visit to Morocco last summer, backed the decision.
Ivory Coast Information Minister Simon Ake was quoted as saying that Ivory Coast opposed what he called Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. He called on the Arab states “not to do anything rash” and urged them to reconsider their decision to break with his country.
Houphouet-Boigny, 80, has been President of Ivory Coast since the former French colony became independent in 1960. He is considered one of the most influential African leaders and his decision to restore diplomatic ties with Israel was seen as a major breakthrough in Israeli-African relations.
Israel has expanded its cooperation with Ivory Coast since relations were restored and there are presently hundreds of Israeli experts in various fields in that country. Observers here believe Houphouet-Boigny’s decision to move his Embassy from Jerusalem was a response not only to Arab pressure but to the fact that 23 percent of his country’s population of 10 million is Moslem.
In addition, there are about 100,000 Arabs of Lebanese and Syrian origin in Ivory Coast where they dominate the country’s commercial life and wield considerable influence over its economy.