Arab Pressure Blamed for Sri Lanka’s Move to Sever Relations with Israel

Israel is blaming Arab pressure for Sri Lanka’s move over the weekend to sever all diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

The formal break follows an order issued March 20 by the Sri Lankan government for Israel to close its interests office in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo within 30 days. The office is housed at the American Embassy.

At the time, President Ranasinghe Premadasa said the decision fulfilled an election promise he made when he took office at the end of 1988.

Sri Lanka said it would resume diplomatic relations when Israel recognizes the Palestine Liberation Organization and “withdraws from all occupied Palestinian territory.”

Iran and several Arab states have congratulated the South Asian island nation on its move.

Reuven Merhav, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, predicted that relations between the two countries would be resumed when Sri Lanka’s present government is eventually replaced.

Merhav contrasted this diplomatic setback with the growing resumption of ties with Israel by countries that broke relations after the 1967 and 1973 wars with the Arab states.

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