Israel-Africa summit reportedly threatened by lack of Nigerian approval


(JTA) — The president of a group representing 15 West African nations invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with member states — but tense ties between the Jewish state and Nigeria could undermine the conference.

The president of Nigeria has not signed off on a meeting between Netanyahu and the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, The Jerusalem Post reported this week.

During a visit to Israel last month, ECOWAS President Marcel Alain de Souza invited Netanyahu to a summit with leaders of the 15 member states. De Souza and Netanyahu signed a declaration of intent for greater cooperation between the Jewish state and the West African group.

All members of the organization need to approve the summit, and getting the go-ahead from Nigeria is proving tricky, a source close to ECOWAS told The Jerusalem Post.

Israel enjoyed good relations with the West African country under its former leader, Goodluck Jonathan, who is Christian. Relations have worsened since last year’s election of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim.

At a February meeting with Qatari Prince Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani, Buhari expressed his support for the Palestinian struggle and a two-state solution, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported.

“I want to assure you that we will stand side by side with you,” he told Al-Thani, “until our brothers and sisters in Palestine achieve their desired objectives.”

Netanyahu has made it part of his agenda to improve Israeli-African relations. In July he visited five countries in East Africa in a campaign to cultivate trade ties.